Buffy ready

On the miseries of browsing for fic.

I have no fresh recs for you today, though I did a great deal of speed-reading through a lot of Mycroft + gen tagged fic on the AO3. This experience was miserable. Oh the badfic! Oh the fic that wasn't at all relevant to my interests despite its appearance in my searches!

I'm going to rant. Brace yourselves.

There is no way to search for Mycroft-centric genfic on AO3. None. You can search for fics with his character tag and the "gen" category tag, but this is a nearly useless filter. Here. Check it out.

Some observations on the results:

Mycroft isn't necessarily the main character in a listed story. He gets tagged as present even when he's an incidental character.
Relationshippy fic is tagged as gen. The presence of pairing tags with slashes between the names (Sherlock/John) is not at odds with the "gen" tag as far as the archive is concerned.
Crossovers are included with the default search; there's no way to get rid of them.
The "Case Fic" tag looks very useful. I'll start searching for that.
Why is a "mystery work" that I can't even click on to read shown in the search results? Talk about useless.
Phrase-length free-form tagging is lovely as an indicator of which stories to not bother clicking on at all, but neither a help nor a hindrance in the search. I wouldn't bother suppressing it.

In the end, I'm left doing a FF.net-style browse down the list, reading summaries to figure out which stories I want to read. However, there's far more noise in the list because FF.net allows at most two characters to be attached to the fic. So if somebody marks a story as featuring Mycroft, it probably does.

In fact, here's the FF.net Mycroft listing. Dude, why the hell was I bothering with wading through the AO3? That list is obviously far more relevant to my interests, right there on the first page. There's a significant content overlap between the two archives but FF.net makes it easier for me to find what I want. Yeah, it doesn't let me filter out gen vs shippy fic, but as we've seen, AO3 doesn't really either. It merely makes me hope that I can.

And ff.net is faster.

In the end, I think relying on a trustworthy rec list is the best option. I was willing to read every single Giles story in existence hunting for good ones, so I was writing some of those rec lists. I am not that much into this fandom. I read a story last night and was out the very instant I saw the writer use "taught" when they meant "taut". No patience.

I'm writing post-Cruciamentum Giles/Buffy right now, by the way. Yes, that demon-transformation soul-bonding wingfic is post-Helpless. Have been challenged to include knotting in it, but no, it's not that sort of story.
  • Current Music: Summer : Solar Fields : EarthShine
I do not understand the posting of unclickable 'mystery' works either. Why not wait until it's ready to be read/viewed?

What does 'free form' mean? I've seen this phrase in many tags and it means nothing to me.
"Free-form" tags on AO3 mean tags that haven't been wrangled into official, canonical forms yet. Somebody has used them for the first time ever. This isn't necessarily bad; I used "blue jeans" the other day to tag the blue-jeans-focused kink meme fill I reposted there. This tag is free-form because nobody else had used it yet, but it's a reasonable tag for that story and you could imagine other stories being tagged with it. And readers looking for stories about ass-hugging buttery-soft blue jeans might search for it.

The really wild long tags are the ones that are more, um, controversial.

I have not read this story at all, but I found it while scanning for an example of freeform tags: check the tags on this one. Tags like "Of course Sherlock would get a question about the solar system" are what people are talking about. They can't be aliased to canonical tags like "Humor" or "Pottermore", also on that story, and they are most likely not used on any other story in the archive. And they never *will* be used on any other story on the archive, not even by the author who used them on that story.

They are Tumblr-style meta-commentary on the story, not tags intended to be used by a reader searching for stories to read. Many people loathe them. No need to explain why, I bet.
Thank you! I've been wondering what free-form meant.

I've seen some of those really wild long tags and just... sorta blinked. They don't really encourage me to read the fic, as they make me think the author is fairly young. That may be a rude judgment of mine, but they just seem immature. Especially since the first ones I saw were the author denigrating herself or her writing.
I think think think there's another use of "freeform" that'll show up in AO3 tags. There's a Beatles fandom tag (things like fandom & characters & pairings are implemented as specially categorized tags behind the scenes). There is also a "Beatles" tag that means "this fic that isn't in the Beatles fandom has the Beatles in it for other reasons". That one will actually be wrangled to an official version that has the word "freeform" in it, to signal something to the tag wranglers. I *think*.

It is confusing.

Tumblr-style tagging drives me crazy on the AO3. It's NOT a blog. It is a FIC ARCHIVE. Tag to help readers find your fics. ARGH.
I think I'm glad I can generally just search by pairing and my pairings are almost always the most popular OTP in the fandom.
No exclusionary clause is my BIGGEST bitch about the searching feature of AO3, which really is crap. I would love to be able to say "I want everything but explicit because I'm at work" or "look, I don't want series. One shots only pls." And why can't I choose more than one thing in their "filter?" It drives me batty it does.

So yeah, I feel your pain.
Why are crossovers included by default? Why? I love me a good crossover when I'm in the mood for one, but not when I'm browsing a fandom's fic in general. Sigh.
Heh. My reaction to the AO3 search engine is about the opposite, because I search for different things. I search, instead, for things like "bechdel pass" or "superpowers au" or fic kinks, which can't be searched for in any way shape or form on any other archive. Then again, I am polyfannish, and the type of story and the quality thereof is more important for me than the fandom and characters, a lot of the time, and what draws me to a fandom is the type of tropes that tend to get written in it. So, while I would make a few tweaks to the AO3 system, it's exactly what I wanted and never had before. It's one of the reasons I love AO3 and wish that more people had their fic there, so that I could find it on searches like that. But then, the whole AO3 tagging system privileges my type of fic reading over other types.
That's an interesting insight! If you're reading for tropes, AO3 gives you a better browsing experience. If you're reading for specific characters (as I very strongly prefer to do), FF.net gives you a better browsing experience.

Tags *can* do both tropes & characters, of course. If there were a way to tag "primary characters" or "primary pairing", AO3 would afford my method of browsing as well as yours. Or if convention were to tag in a more limited way (do not tag for incidental content/characters/etc) it would also work.
I too use AO3 to trawl for particular tropes. Also, I don't think ff.net handles RPF fandoms at all, although it's possible I'm just not looking in the right place.

I do very much like the "primary pairing" idea for AO3, though. It's discouraging to go looking for, say, a minor SPN het ship (all het ships are minor in SPN) and get back results where in 75% of the cases the het ship is only background to the main slash one. I suspect there are a lot of fandoms that have that same problem.
FF.net limits its content: it doesn't want the explicit adult stuff and I don't think it wants RPF either. It also bans fandoms where the owners/authors are known to disapprove. Anne Rice fandoms, for instance. So AO3 is always going to have a broader range of content possible. It's still an order of magnitude or two smaller overall, though.