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on browsing & reading on AO3

With lj being all flooey of late, AO3's been seeing an uptick in activity (which is awesome!) (along with an uptick in 502 errors, which is less awesome, but we're looking into it; the coders are doing all they can & then some, as usual!) I've also seen a few complaints here and there about annoyances in browsing and reading on the Archive, the biggest being the 1,000 works limit.

If you've only read smaller fandoms on AO3 you won't have run across it, but AO3 has a cap of 1,000 results on any search or filtering. This was an early stopgap to prevent the servers from going 'splodey, and initially it didn't matter much, because there weren't 1,000 works of anything. But nowadays, if you want to read, say, Stargate Atlantis fic, with over 10,000 works, clicking on SGA brings up less than 10% of the available fic.

Eventually there will be fixes to the 1,000 works cap; the problem is being worked on (as evidenced by the 502s, server-'splodeyness is still a concern). Until then, however, there are still plenty of ways around it! If you're a completist trying to see all the fics (ALL OF THEM!) here's a few tricks to help you out:

Sort by: at the top of every works list page for a tag (such as works in a fandom, e.g. Stargate Atlantis) there are various ways to sort. The default is by published date, descending (newest to oldest); you can also sort by author, title, or my favorites, hits and word count. This sort covers all the works under the tag, not just the 1,000 listed. If there are less than 2,000 works in a fandom, you can easily access all of them by reversing the sort order - e.g. click on "Date" and it will sort by oldest to newest, bringing up all the early stories you missed in the first run of 1,000. So I can browse the most recently published Homestuck, and then the earliest published Homestuck, and thus catch all of the 1,600+ HS works on AO3.

I like to sort by word count myself, since I like reading longer stories; sorting by word count in SGA, for example, gives me all the SGA stories on the Archive over 9,000 words. On the other hand, if I'm in the mood for something short, you can click on Word Count again, and it will sort in ascending order (smallest to largest), giving me 1,000 fics all under 300 words.

Obviously that leaves out a bunch of fics in the middle. But there are other ways to browse:

Tags and filters: AO3's tagging system isn't perfect (I'm a tag wrangler, believe me, I know!) but it's still awfully nifty and convenient now. You can access tags two ways - either by clicking on the tags themselves on any work, or by checking the filters on the right to combine tags (note that the "or" feature is a bit broken; "and" works fine though, if I only want to read mature-rated McShep.) Tag results can be sorted, same as described above (so you can see all the long McShep stories first). Tag results are still limited to 1,000, and there's far more McShep than that - but if you narrow the results further (say, filtering by AU) then you can see all 873 McShep AUs currently on AO3.

One thing to note when using the filters: the work counts you see next to a tag in the right sidebar only are counting the works in that first 1,000. So the numbers will be off - they might only show 300 works, but when you filter by them you'll get many more. So even if a tag only shows a few works, it still might be worth filtering by it. (Also, ways to filter by language and by complete vs WiP are coming soon.)

But wait, there's more:

Search & Advanced Search: Currently there's no way to negatively filter tags (i.e. subtract a tag from results, rather than add it.) This feature is coming, but until then there are still ways to run a negative search, by using search - simply enter a search term with a hyphen before it. E.g. searching "Rodney McKay" -"John Sheppard" will find you fics with Rodney but without John.

The advanced search feature is even more powerful than that - as well as searching tags, titles, and authors, you can also search for specific word counts, hits, kudos, and date - including ranges, which is useful tool for finding fics in a fandom. For example, you can search for all Stargate Atlantis fics published 5-6 years ago.

The date tool is a bit clumsy for finding all the fics, however; the word count search is probably better for that. To bring up all the fics, start with a range, e.g. 0-200. Then, once you've looked over those results, increment it, 201-500. As long as the results it brings up are less than 1,001, you are seeing all works within those parameters on the Archive. In that way you can fairly quickly go through all the fic in any fandom, or for a specific tag or tags.

(A note about Advanced Search - like the rest of AO3 it's in beta and has its kinks. In particular it has trouble with tags with dashes - if you search for X-men, for instance, you noticed you'll get lots with X and no X-men. To get around this, put the tag in quotes: "X-men".)

Hopefully this will help improve your AO3 experience! If you have any other tricks and tips, or questions about how to do any of this, please leave a comment below - and happy ficcing!


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 25th, 2011 02:21 am (UTC)
This is actually a bit tangential, so I hope you don't mind, but: I'll apparently be running next year's SGA Genficathon through AO3 next year. I post my fics there quite happily, but I've never run a fest (anywhere, really). I'll be looking through the help sections to try to figure out what I'm doing, and I'm thinking to check with the Atlantis Big Bang folks for tips & tricks for fic-and-maybe-art fests ... but if you know of any other primers for fest-runners — or for new members, for that matter, since some prospective participants aren't there yet and are wary — I would be super-grateful for any links you have.

(I really like posting at AO3, but I'm the sort of person who only works in text and prefers to use HTML editors, so I'm not always the best person to introduce new folks to systems. Heh.)
Aug. 25th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
Don't mind at all, I'm happy to talk AO3 anytime! ^^

The FAQs and tutorials are being overhauled, so hopefully by the time the Genficathon rolls around there will be some better ones up. For now this tutorial covers how to post to a collection for newbies. For a ficathon like this I think you should just use a regular collection (though they are working on new challenge types!), and handling regular collections is pretty straightforward - the FAQ's got the basics, and you can also figure it out as you go. Setting things as unrevealed or anonymous is easy - though right now I don't think there's any way to reveal works incrementally; either they're not revealed or they're revealed. That might change, though...(The thing about AO3 is that it's a major WiP, so new features and whatnot are always getting added...)

(By next year AO3 also should hopefully have better ways to handle art posting; that's in the works now!)

You also can request more invites so you can get on board anyone who doesn't have an account
(no subject) - michelel72 - Aug. 26th, 2011 04:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xparrot - Sep. 2nd, 2011 10:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - michelel72 - Sep. 8th, 2011 02:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cesy - Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xparrot - Sep. 2nd, 2011 10:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cesy - Sep. 2nd, 2011 10:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xparrot - Sep. 2nd, 2011 10:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - michelel72 - Aug. 26th, 2011 04:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 25th, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
Thanks for all you guys are doing. I visit AO3 just about every day now to get my fix(es). Whatever you can do is much appreciated!
Aug. 25th, 2011 10:08 am (UTC)
Thank you! ^^ I admit that it's very self-serving volunteering; half the fic I read nowadays myself is on AO3 XD
Aug. 25th, 2011 06:49 am (UTC)
Thanks for the tips; I didn't realize a lot of that about AO3, and it's good to know. (Especially since I am in fact using it more because of LJ being down a lot lately. And, well, there being a ton of fics in a relatively easy-to-sort archive. :) ) It's also interesting to hear what in particular is being added/improved soon. Thanks!
Aug. 25th, 2011 10:10 am (UTC)
Yup, we've been getting a lot more people lately, and the theory is that lj's downtime is the cause of most of it. I find it so much easier than lj for fic-reading myself - now I just gotta get all my favorite authors/fandoms up on it! XD
Aug. 26th, 2011 12:13 am (UTC)
Handy post, will be pointing to it!
Aug. 26th, 2011 05:35 am (UTC)
Cool! We need more publicity on some of our features, I think (I don't talk enough about AO3 here, really ^^;)
Aug. 26th, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this highly informative post! (I'm here via a link from sholio.

I'm a small-fandom dweller, so I didn't know about the thousand-story limit, but tags and filters are a conflicted thicket ("I'm grateful; no, I'm frustrated; no, grateful; no, frustrated!" ~g~).
Aug. 26th, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
Glad it could help (and thanks for the linkage!)

Tags can be very useful (provided authors use them on their fic) but they do need to be reworked to be truly convenient...but an overhaul is planned & coming (eventually!)
(no subject) - greerwatson - Aug. 27th, 2011 09:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xparrot - Aug. 27th, 2011 10:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xparrot - Sep. 2nd, 2011 10:47 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 26th, 2011 04:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this. I didn't know about the negative option... it'll come in handy.

Any idea if there's a way (or one on the to-do-list for the advanced search) to filter for works with only *ONE* fandom? I never realized how many crossovers there were in my fandom until I started reading on AO3 and had to sift through them all. ^_^
Aug. 26th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
Yes, the negation option needs better advertising, because it is so convenient ^^

As far as I know there's presently no direct way to filter for single-fandom works, though you're not the first person to ask for it. A lot of usesrs do tag for them, though, so you can try searching for "Fandom -crossover", that should cut down some. And you might want to drop a quick line to support mentioning you'd like the feature; we do try to keep track of what's in demand!
Aug. 26th, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm glad you posted this; I was actually having problems with browsing yesterday and was thinking about e-mailing, but this works even better!

So, two problems/scenarios. First off, I wanted some fics with the character Penelope Garcia in Criminal Minds. I filtered by CM to get a list of pairings so I could pick which pairings I wanted to see, which worked well! My plan had been to tell it to bring back fics with (e.g.) "Penelope Garcia/Abby OR Penelope/Derek OR Penelope/Derek/Spencer." The problem with that is the browsing tool then wouldn't let me deselect Criminal Minds as the fandom, so I either had to search for fics with "Criminal Minds AND Penelope Garcia/Abby AND Penelope/Derek AND Penelope/Derek/Spencer," which doesn't exist; or I had to search for "Criminal Minds OR Penelope Garcia/Abby OR Penelope/Derek OR Penelope/Derek/Spencer," which is...pointless. Because it returns all Criminal Minds fic.

My other problem was similar, in that I was trying to narrow down a large selection. I'd selected a kink to browse by (double penetration) and wanted to narrow it down to the fandoms I was interested in. But again, if I selected "and" then it required ALL the fandoms, which doesn't exist; and "or" brought back ALL of those fandoms' fics.

(There's another problem, which is that a lot of people tag characters when those characters aren't in the pairing or barely in the fic, but that is certainly not anything y'all can do anything about. ;) )

I made it work, eventually, but it involved a lot of back and forth and refreshing and scrolling and was a pain in the ass. So, just some feedback for y'all to chew on.
Aug. 26th, 2011 09:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the limits of the "or" filter is awfully irritating! It's a known bug, but so far the coders haven't found a fix. The good news is that the filters are up for a redesign, so it hopefully will be fixed...no ETA when, though.

The other good news is that Search can do OR searches as well, using | to represent OR. And a blank space acts as AND. So searching "double penetration" "criminal minds" | "stargate atlantis" will bring up CM and SGA works using the dp tag. This is still limited, but can be useful! (the main problem with search is that at least right now it only looked up the specific form of a tag - so while the "double penetration" filter also bring up works tagged "kink: dp" and "dual penetration", search only brings up works specifically tagged "double penetration". This is a known bug also being looked into. It causes trouble especially when looking up pairings and additional tags like dp, since people tag for those any which way.)

There is a way to do the first OR problem you described with filters, though it's a tricky and requires an irritating amount of scrolling and refreshing. Basically, as you noticed, the filter uses the first tag you're looking at as the first tag in the "or" filter - so if you're looking at CM, any "or" filter will bring up all CM fics. If you look at an individual tag, however, that will be the base filter. So, say, if you click on Penelope Garcia/Derek Morgan on a fic, you'll filter by those works (not by CM). Then if you use the "or" filter it will find fics with that tag OR another tag, as desired. To get the full pairing list, filter by the fandom (CM), then uncheck the fandom and check all the pairings you want - and then you'll see the proper OR list, like so.

This is obviously overly complicated to the point of being untenable, and it doesn't work for cases like the second, when you want to filter "or" within a particular filter; you'll need to use search for that. Still, hope it helps until the filter redesign!
(no subject) - anoneknewmoose - Aug. 26th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xparrot - Aug. 26th, 2011 09:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 27th, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
Another question: If I browse fics by author, is there a way to show more than 20 fics at the same time? The limit is really annoying especially with prolific writers.
Thanks! :)
Aug. 27th, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC)
The 20-works-a-page limit is another anti-server-'splodey measure, and as far as I know there's no way around it (search results are also limited by 20). But you can sort an author's works by wordcount and whatever, as well as filter them by fandom/pairing/category/etc.

(In the future there might be greater limits on # of works a page, but I really don't know...)
(no subject) - schneefink - Aug. 28th, 2011 10:46 am (UTC) - Expand
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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