wrabbit: (harry: blazes)
[personal profile] wrabbit posting in [community profile] ao3some
So I have noticed some fans saying that they prefer to ignore or not read the tags on AO3 because they might find them spoilery. As someone who doesn't consider many things spoilers I found this intriguing. I would like to pose a few questions to everyone:

1) Do you typically read tags? How often do you search by tag?

2) What kinds of tags do you find spoilery and why?

3) What do you want to know about the content of a story before you read? Why?

4) What do you not want to know about the content of a story before you read? Why?

5) Would whether you consider any tags to be spoilery or not be affected if the author wrote the content indicated by the tags creatively or in an atypical way?

Date: 2014-03-23 08:53 pm (UTC)
chordatesrock: The Punishment of Loki by Louis Huard (detail) (Default)
From: [personal profile] chordatesrock
1. Yes. I search by tag under the following circumstances:
a. I'm surprised that the tag exists and want to know who used it and why.
b. I want to read fics of that specific type.
c. I want to get a feel for how popular the tag is and whether any of its fics are any good.

2. I haven't run into this problem. I assume you don't mean spoilery for the canon. I suppose It Got Worse can be spoilery. I guess if a fic's summary were "X is poisoned and Y is racing against time to find the antidote before it's too late" then I wouldn't want to see Major Character Death in the tags.

3. Rating; I won't read if it's rated E for Explicit because of porn. Pairings; I don't want to read Harry Potter/Voldemort, and I don't even want to read Clint/Coulson because no one ever considers the effect of power dynamics and the fact that they work together. It's even worse than the usual office romance. No, thanks! (I could find my mind changed if a fic actually dealt with that.) I do want to know the story's premise. Is it an AU? If so, what's the point of divergence? Is it about a new villain showing up post-canon? Great, tell me that!

Those things go in summaries, though. For tags... I guess characters. I want to know if your fic is going to involve Sleipnir, I want to know if it will be fluffy or angsty or dark or actiony, I want to know if it will be gen or romance, and I want to get a feel for what kind of platonic relationships are important in the fic. Oh! And I want to be able to search by fandom. I recently had some issues doing an archive search for fics based on Norse myth, because too many Marvel fics include Norse Religion & Lore as a fandom tag when all they do is throw in a reference to Loki being Sleipnir's parent. If your fic is all about Marvel!Loki and Marvel!Thor and takes place after Loki tries to take over the earth, it's not what I'm looking for if I do a search for Norse Religion & Lore, thank you. It might be a great fic! Really! Of course, crossovers should tag both fandoms, and I suppose I would have to accept that a fic that goes into detail about multiple stories from the myths that aren't usually adapted into MCU fics is totally allowed to tag NR&L, but I wish they'd stop tagging it just for drawing a couple of things from the myths.

5. No, but... it's not like some tags are spoilers and some aren't. It all depends on the fic, just not this way. For instance, if the fic opens with a character dying or is about a war where lots of characters die, then tagging Major Character Death isn't a spoiler for me. Basically, it's a spoiler if it resolves the fic's central question. "Character X and Character Y are forced to champion opposite sides in trial by combat. Despite being lovers, they must fight to the death. No Archive Warnings Apply" = spoiler. "Characters A through G do battle against character H through M. Major Character Death" = not a spoiler.

Date: 2014-03-23 09:53 pm (UTC)
ninetydegrees: Drawing: a girl's face, with a yellow and green stripe over one eye (Default)
From: [personal profile] ninetydegrees
1) I kinda skim and scan them. For example I look for certain warnings which may not be in other cats, or for some specific kinks I don't really care for. I may pay more attention to them if the summary is really vague. I do occasionally use the tag search for some rare-ish kinks. :)
2), 4) and 5) Hmm. I guess there's not much I find too spoilery --well except if the whole story's right there in the tags -- but I just pick what I wanna know about and ignore the rest.
3) Fandom, pairing, whether it's complete. PWPs because I usually don't like these much. Same goes for some kinks. Otherwise, major character death, non-con, extreme violence or torture, sad ending. I find some fics with such elements too hard to read sometimes, and others I'll bookmark for when I'm physically and emotionally in the right place for them.
Edited Date: 2014-03-23 09:55 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-03-24 12:23 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] sketchme
1) Yes, all the time.

2) I've only felt spoilt when reading tags which indicate a character death.

3) Pairing and themes. I also like to get a sense of the authors' writing style from how they write/present the summary and tags. I'm not a fan of cutesy summaries/tags, which are often an indicator for cutsey writing.

4) Any plot twists.

You've missed a word from this question.
5) It doesn't matter to me tbh.
Edited Date: 2014-03-24 12:24 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-03-24 01:09 am (UTC)
torachan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] torachan
I never search by tags and I only read them if something happens to catch my eye as I'm reading the header info that actually is pertinent to me (namely, the summary). I used to have it set so that it didn't show tags at all, but that started having some sort of glitch so I turned it off.

I do think tags can be spoilery. I don't necessarily get upset at spoilers, but I also don't want to know a lot going in. For example, while some people love to see a long list of every sex act contained in the fic, I'd rather not because I want to just read the story and see how that happens.

Basically all I want to know about a story before I read is the fandom and the summary. If the summary sounds interesting to me, I want to read it. What I don't want to know is anything beyond the basic story (unless I'm reading on a rec, then it's nice to know things like if other people thought it was good, that sort of thing).

Date: 2014-03-24 01:33 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] richey
I always read tags, I find them extremely important. I generally search by tag when I'm looking for a specific kind of thing - like "trans character".

I usually find spoilery the tags that authors use as commentary, like "In this fic mr doe does a thing" because it's, well, unnecessary. Maybe in smut when the author says what there is in the text - like sexting, pegging, etc - but I like it because it's usually how I choose the smut I'll read.

Trigger-warnings, like suicide, self-harm, rape, even consensual violence during sex (like cutting one another, I find it EXTREMELY triggering), because it's important.

I don't really care for spoilers tbh.

Date: 2014-03-24 02:31 am (UTC)
shyfoxling: Ravenclaw crest (Default)
From: [personal profile] shyfoxling
I'm a bit of an outlying data point since I don't care about being "spoiled" and I gather that most people do.

1. I always read tags. I guess by tag is the way I search most often, because I am looking for fics that include one particular character in my fandom.

2. n/a

3. Does it contain the character I am looking for? What pairings, if any, are there? How long is it? Does it contain any of my personal squicks or things I'm not interested in reading (e.g. most crossovers)? What genre is it (comedy, adventure, romance...)? Is it alternate universe/reality? What is its rating (general/teen/adult)?

4. n/a

5. I guess I could see that becoming spoilery. The author could potentially give away quite specific things if they wrote non-canonical tags in a certain way.

I wonder if others would appreciate being able to expand/collapse that area on the page, and being able to set a preference to have it expanded or collapsed by default?

Date: 2014-03-24 03:13 am (UTC)
msilverstar: (hobbit: dwarves)
From: [personal profile] msilverstar
I actually just had this dilemma as I was bookmarking a story where the summary was intentionally obscure. Should I tag the unexpected character or not? I eventually decided to do it, because I suspect people will look for that story using the character name.

ETA: fandom secret annoyed with ship tags for breakups: http://fandomsecrets.dreamwidth.org/982280.html?thread=732625672#cmt732625672
Edited Date: 2014-03-24 03:17 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-04-03 09:02 pm (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
For me, I would never read an intentionally obscured story. I am interested in reading fanfic about the canons I like.

When I want to be surprised, I go for orig fic.

Maybe this is limiting; dunno.

Date: 2014-03-24 09:55 pm (UTC)
casspeach: (Default)
From: [personal profile] casspeach
1) I skim tags, and search tags sometimes, when I'm in the mood for something particular and don't mind so much pairing or fandom (bulletproof narrative kinks mainly)

2) I don't mind the spoileriness of tags on fic. I'm quite spoilerphobic in my canon, but if I'm reading fic I like to know exactly what flavour I'm headed for

3) Things I don't want to read about, like character death, infidelity, animal harm, break ups. Because fic reading fills a very particular niche in my entertainment life, and I'm aware it doesn't fill the same niche for everyone so I like to know I am getting exactly what I am looking for. It's one of the many many joys of fanfic for me.

4) that the author was drunk/high/whatever when they wrote it, can't write summaries, thinks their own work is rubbish, thinks the characters are OOC

5) I don't think so, but I'm not mad keen on 'creative' tagging anyway.

I'd never heard of readers not wanting to be spoiled before this post, just writers not wanting to spoil their own story. So thanks for the thought-provocation

Date: 2014-03-24 10:29 pm (UTC)
ninetydegrees: Drawing: a girl's face, with a yellow and green stripe over one eye (Default)
From: [personal profile] ninetydegrees
o I like to know I am getting exactly what I am looking for. It's one of the many many joys of fanfic for me.


4) that the author was drunk/high/whatever when they wrote it, can't write summaries, thinks their own work is rubbish, thinks the characters are OOC

Oh didn't think of that but that's pretty much true for me as well.

Date: 2014-03-25 09:00 pm (UTC)
casspeach: (Default)
From: [personal profile] casspeach
Yeah I don't think that was what the OP was getting at with 4) but I couldn't think of any proper tags that I dislike, and I do dislike those, so...

Date: 2014-04-03 12:59 am (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks

Date: 2014-03-26 09:25 pm (UTC)
metanewsmods: Abed wearing goggles (Default)
From: [personal profile] metanewsmods
Hi, can we link this at metanews?

Date: 2014-04-03 12:21 am (UTC)
sophia_sol: drawing of Combeferre, smiling and holding up a finger like he's about to explain something (Default)
From: [personal profile] sophia_sol
I'm an edge case for a lot of these questions, probably! I am as far in the opposite direction from a spoilerphobe as it's possible to get.

1) I always at least skim through the tags of a fic I'm about to read. I don't search by tag super often but I am always very grateful to be able to when I am in the mood to.

2) I'm the sort of person who prefers to go into any given narrative with full knowledge of what to expect, so I like having spoilers given to me in tags/summary/wherever. This means that I don't have a good sense of what is and isn't considered a "spoiler" because I personally want to know everything.

3) Whether it has a happy ending (and what the author considers to be a happy ending...), what plot twists to expect, what tropes to expect, what endgame pairings to expect, etc. I find narratives stressful when I don't know what to expect so I am much happier reading a story when I know what's going to happen in it - then it's about the experience of the narrative instead of worrying about what might or might not happen next.

4) I can't think of anything I wouldn't want to know before going in. If it's something someone might be wary of sharing because it might "spoil" the story then I want to know.

5) If the content indicated by the tags is done in an atypical way, I would want to know that going in too!

Date: 2014-04-03 07:04 pm (UTC)
turlough: gold statues from the tomb of Tutankhamun ((other) dreaming of the past)
From: [personal profile] turlough
I find narratives stressful when I don't know what to expect so I am much happier reading a story when I know what's going to happen in it - then it's about the experience of the narrative instead of worrying about what might or might not happen next.

I pretty much agree with everything in this comment but particularly with this. And it's not just the narrative, roughly knowing what will happen makes it possible for me to enjoy the craftmanship of the writer in a way I wouldn't be able to if I were focused on worrying what would happen next. In other words, it's the journey itself that interests me, not the goal.

Date: 2014-04-03 12:57 am (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
1) Do you typically read tags? How often do you search by tag?

The only tag I have ever searched for is the pairing tag.

2) What kinds of tags do you find spoilery and why?

Any tag that gives away the ending could be considered spoilery. But in some genres of fan fiction, that's a feature, not a bug.

3) What do you want to know about the content of a story before you read? Why?

I want to know fandom, pairing, rating, if it's a romance, if it's angsty, if it's death fic, if it has certain squicks of mine that I don't want to read (if possible; luckily my squicks are commonly tagged -- bloodplay is a NEVER READ EVER thing for me).

4) What do you not want to know about the content of a story before you read? Why?

For fanfic, I am usually entirely unconcerned with spoilers. Fanfic is something I read to enjoy familiar things, not to be surprised or taken in entirely new directions.

5) Would whether you consider any tags to be spoilery or not be affected if the author wrote the content indicated by the tags creatively or in an atypical way?

I do not understand this question.

Date: 2014-04-03 10:18 am (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
If the tags were intentionally misleading, I would not consider that a spoiler.

However, I would probably avoid reading anything by that author in the future. Intentionally misleading readers using tags is something I would be very annoyed by.

Authors who feel strongly about not giving information out before a story is read should simply announce that they don't tag their stories or use story warnings, IMHO. Gaming the tagging system would push my buttons as a reader.

Date: 2014-04-03 08:52 pm (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
Yeah, you are clearly willing to accept tag usages that for me are just 'not done' and that would make me feel deceived.

Different strokes and all that.

Date: 2014-04-04 02:34 am (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
This specific example I would not have a problem with. Because as far as it goes, it's accurate. The reader may conflate or interpret the meaning of the two tags, but that is okay by me.

Date: 2014-04-04 02:32 am (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Danielfilmframe by Paian)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
I see what you're getting at, but for me it all comes down to what tags are for.

To me, they are for giving the reader accurate information about what's in the story. And by definition, that makes tags spoilery. Any attempt to make tags less spoilery infringes on the actual purpose of tags.

Coy or sly obfuscation with tags in order to attempt to not give away the ending or a plot twist is, imho, absolutely counter to the purpose of tags.

I repeat: If an author is against the entire idea of a reader knowing too much about the story in advance, the author should simply say "I do not warn" and "I do not tag" and hope the reader is down with that.

Even in profic that you buy in bookstores, there's a certain amount of expectation or reader/author promise implied by the genre. So rarely do we as readers plunge into something with absolutely zero expectations.

And yet, fanfic tags by design go way beyond that. They are intended to give real information. They are not for obfuscation.

I would be in favor of simply fewer tags than any attempt to coyly tempt the reader by subtly and poetically playing with the nature of the tags. For me, that kind of effort should be reserved for the fic itself. The tags are more like cold metadata.

But I don't do Tumblr, and Tumblr tags are indeed an art form that is probably bleeding into other places (like AO3) where tags are used. I myself would be in favor of resisting this trend.

But I am not really a good example to use, because I so rarely search for tags other than fandom and pairing.

Thanks for the thinky.
Edited Date: 2014-04-04 02:33 am (UTC)


Date: 2014-04-03 09:04 pm (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
Creative or contrary interpretations of prompts are in another category for me. I don't mind them at all.

But intentionally gaming the tag system, which is supposed to be accurate metadata, would tick me off.

Date: 2014-04-03 02:35 am (UTC)
gehayi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] gehayi
1) Do you typically read tags? How often do you search by tag?

All the time. I also check tags before I post to AO3 to see if a tag like the concept I'm thinking of already exists.

2) What kinds of tags do you find spoilery and why?

Something that tells me explicitly who dies and/or how. Or something that tells me who gets raped/hurt/possessed...you get the idea.

3) What do you want to know about the content of a story before you read? Why?

I want to know the fandom, the characters and whether or not it involves sex, because aside from a very few writers, I tend not to read stories that get explicit. The same goes for kinks.

4) What do you not want to know about the content of a story before you read? Why?

How it ends. Why bother reading the story if I can tell what happens and how it ends from the tags?

5) Would whether you consider any tags to be spoilery or not be affected if the author wrote the content indicated by the tags creatively or in an atypical way?

Not really. I mean, I get that some people are triggered by harm or death to characters so writers announce the harm/death in tags...but that doesn't make the harm or death more interesting to me as a reader. Knowing about it just tells me that I don't have to read the story.

Edited Date: 2014-04-03 02:36 am (UTC)

Date: 2014-04-03 04:07 pm (UTC)
kate: Kate Winslet is wryly amused (Default)
From: [personal profile] kate
Hi there. Here from metanews. This is intriguing, and judging by the comments so far, it looks like my not-wanting-to-be-spoiled-ness is out of the ordinary, so I'll answer your questions to hopefully provide insight on that phenomenon.

1) I never read tags when I'm looking for things to read (even though I search for things to read via the tags). I don't want to know what's in a story - I want to let the story unfold knowing as little about it as possible. This is important to my enjoyment of a story (this comes from book culture, I think - books don't have tags or warnings or ratings, and I like that). I do, however, use tags to search if I am looking for a particular kink or other item (rare pairing, etc.). I also use the tags to narrow down the field of what I'm looking at. I'm in the Supernatural fandom, and putting in a pairing I feel like reading will bring up thousands of hits. After that, I narrow by things I know I'm not interested in (alternate universes and crossovers, incomplete stories) and that makes my search more manageable. Once I've narrowed it down that far, though, I look at the summary and nothing else - I want the story to speak for itself.

2) I find all tags spoilery. And by "spoilery," I mean for the fic I'm about to read. I am fortunate enough not to have any triggers, so I don't need or want more information for my fic than a summary that shows me the author can write a full sentence with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and with content that intrigues me. Once I have that much, anything else is going to (however minutely) ruin the story for me. I don't want to know who else is in the fic, what sex acts there might be, what kind of plot it has, or strange elements that might be in there. Actually - there are a few tags that aren't spoilery (or are spoilery in a way that doesn't detract from the story), like: length (range for the number of words or time for podfic), tags that indicate there is a character of color, and other choices of that nature. They're also super-useful to search on, so I appreciate those tags, though I probably won't look at them until after the fact, or if I'm looking for those particular kinds of fics.

Caveat: I don't feel like people shouldn't tag - I feel it is vital to have appropriately tagged fanworks for people with triggers. I have trained myself not to look at tags so I don't spoil myself because I want to experience the fic without any foreknowledge. That's important to me because spoilers mute my enjoyment of the fic, but it doesn't trump the need to tag appropriately so that people with triggers can take care of themselves.

3) Addressed above, but to reiterate: I want a particular fandom and/or pairing, which I search on by tag. After that, all I want to know that the author can write a coherent, properly spelled and punctuated, grammatically correct sentence.

I do also want to know the basic premise of the story, so good summaries are vital. Too little won't grab my interest. Too much and you've just spoiled the story for me. I don't want to know anything more than a hook to start reading, and then I want the rest of the story to unfold without knowing anything else about it. Anything I know will dampen my enjoyment, because for me, the best part of a story is the surprise of where things are going. If I know where they're going before I start, I don't really need to read the story, do I? The more surprise there is, the more enjoyment for me. (And not surprise of "I never expected them to do that" variety (which indicates OOCness) but rather of the "what happens next?!" variety (which indicates excellent storytelling).)

4) I don't want to know anything beyond the basic premise of the story before I start reading. A good summary basically hooks you into the story and doesn't give anything away that you wouldn't learn from the opening scene. That's the most information I ever want from a story. I don't care what sex acts are included, what secondary pairings, what outside-the-main-relationship pairings, what kinks (unless that's specifically what I'm looking for when I search tags in the first place) or what tropes are included.

5) People who use tumblr-style tags on the AO3 are even more spoilery than regular AO3 tags. I generally don't read those fics because if I see the tags, I pretty much know the whole fic anyway. If "cuddling" is spoilery to me, "Dean has a squishy marshmallow center" is more than I ever wanted to know. It tells me more about the author's intent and read on the character than I want to know before going into a fic.

It's like a movie trailer - if it's done right, it gives you a sense of the movie and leaves you wanting more. If it's done wrong, you know the whole movie by the end of the trailer and there's no reason to go see it.

Other than tumblr-style tags, I'm not sure what atypical or creative tags might be, but it wouldn't really matter to me because I find all tags spoilery.

Date: 2014-04-05 05:56 am (UTC)
beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
From: [personal profile] beatrice_otter
I search by tags quite often, because I am polyfannish. If I read a fic and want to read more like it, "like it" to me doesn't necessarily mean "with the same characters and fandom." Like it may mean "hey, this is pretty good kid!fic--I'll see what kid!fic has been written lately." And then going from SG-1 kidfic to Hockey RPF to Star Wars to Downton Abbey to ... you get the point.

I don't care about spoilers in general. I find the long "descriptive" unique tags like "derek likes poetry too much" very annoying, because the purpose of tags is to be able to search on them and tags that are unique to a single fic kinda defeat the purpose. But I don't care if they tell me what the end of the story is or anything.

Date: 2014-04-11 12:40 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] moonlightmead
Hi. Here via metanews (belatedly). Like another via-metanews arrival, I don't seem to fit the pattern, so I'll reply, however late. The big thing for me is that I have different reactions depending on fandom. I have one main fandom where I live and breathe and read and write and which is at least 90% of my time (The Professionals), and a couple of minor ones where I read intermittently, and then I go following recs to things I know nothing about.

(1) In my main fandom, I try not to read the tags. AO3 makes this hard.

But in other fandoms, I don't mind. I certainly don't go out of my way not to. Very very occasionally, I search on a tag. It's so rare that I can remember most of the searches still! So I remember reading a rec which was a Narnia story dealing with Susan, tagged with 'Problem of Susan', and I knew instantly that I would like to read others in that genre, so searched for that. And a couple of years ago, I discovered the knotting tag and had a day of reading All The Knotting. (This must have been a while ago, because you could, indeed, read a lot of it in a weekend back then!)

(2) I think most tags are spoilery! Perhaps not these: tagging for episode, series, or post-canon, or writing styles: 'five things', 'epistolary', 'first person'. But even then, another writing style tag would be a spoiler: 'unreliable narrator'. Particularly because I have just found a heap of 'xxx is an unreliable narrator' examples, which stop me reading it and discovering it for myself. Another example is when something is revealed at the end, and it's been tagged for. I read a brilliant story recently where only at the end of the story do you realise that the POV character is blind. I read it on paper, with no tags. If I had seen it on AO3 and 'blindness' had been in the tags, the entire point of the story would have been lost.

(3) Main fandom (Pros): length (do I read it now, or save until have more time), some indication of whether it's fluff, light-hearted, serious or very heavy (again, 'read now, or later'), author (gives me an idea of what to expect), and whether it's slash, gen or het (slash is what I am in Pros for and I often skip the others). And that's about it. Don't even require the pairing. Pros is 95% B/D, and that's what I see and what I write (she says, stuffing evidence to the contrary under the table), but the occasional surprise keeps me interested.

Other fandoms: actually, how interesting - I like knowing quite a bit in other fandoms! I like to know what I'm getting: length, level of seriousness, slash/gen/het (happy to read various of those in various fandoms), how explicit, is it rapefic or deathfic or kid!fic or does it contain BDSM or blowjobs or femslash - oh, yes, pairing! Yes, okay, if it's not a fandom I intend to spend time in, I want the lot. How weird.

4: main fandom: I don't want to know much at all, not even the pairing for sure (although there has to be a slashy vibe to it). I want the big twists to be surprises to me. Pros is an old fandom with a lot of pre-internet fic, and lots of the stories were never categorised and tagged. I read almost everything without knowing what to expect. I don't have any triggers that I know of, and I want the surprises. I have been absolutely *rocked* by some unexpected twists - the time a main character kills a minor character, the time one of the big OTP returns to find the other of the pair now with another character, the time the rescuers arrive too late. That emotional reaction would have been completely blunted if I had known those were going to happen.

Other fandoms: again, if the author is trying for a surprise or twist ending, I would rather be surprised, but other than that, I am less worried by spoilers.

5) Atypical or creative use: I don't think I'd consider the spoiler issue. I'd probably be more irritated. Either tag it to be very clear, or don't tag at all, I think. 'Creative' use means that people who care about tags are not going to get what they expect.

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