Many moons ago, when astolat first suggested the idea of a fan-owned archive, she collected ideas for what features it should have. Many wonderful ideas were proposed, but one idea was repeated again and again - some way of subscribing to favourite authors or fandoms and keeping track of new things posted. Everyone wants a handy reading list, right? So, when the first roadmap for the AO3 was drawn up, subscriptions were there front and centre. We figured they should go in early on - originally we had them at number seven on our Archive roadmap, before collections and challenges.
Then, well, we started coding. And subscriptions turned out to be tricksy! The code to actually make them work isn't so bad, but they are hungry beasts when it comes to performance. We worked hard on performance, but it took us a while to get right. We ran Yuletide 2009 on the Archive and the servers groaned and cried. We spiffed up our caching and upgraded to Rails 3 (which brought performance benefits) but by then fandom had been busy filling up the servers and code improvements were no longer enough. Then fandom came through in a BIG way during the OTW's funding drives, and we bought shiny new servers! Subscriptions were so close we could taste them! Our users could taste them too - the number of support requests asking about the feature grew and grew.
Once the new servers were installed, we were finally able to deal with the performance demands of subscriptions. A few more bumps with delayed job (which used to deal with email queues before the mighty Sidra slew it and replaced it with resque), and we were finally there! Our wonderful coder and AD&T co-chair Elz took the plunge!
So, we're totally jazzed to announce the alpha version of subscriptions - you can now subscribe to a user and be notified by email whenever they post a new work or chapter. In the future we'll be spiffing this up further - RSS feeds for particular tags are the next thing on our to-do list, and further down the line we hope to include more fine-grained personalisation and more features. But right now, we are EXCITED, because we can finally stop checking user pages obsessively and just lie back and let our favourite authors come to us. HURRAY!
If you'd like to let people know they can now subscribe to you on the AO3, copy & paste the below handy dandy code and replace YOUR USERNAME with your username and YOUR FANDOMS with the names of the fandoms you post works in (thanks astolat for this snippet!)