[Carnival] Marina’s Reflections on Animanga Blogs

Throughout the onslaught of the 2012 Aniblog Tourney, I learned quite a few lessons regarding my own site and how I view other blogs.  I also greatly appreciated the time some wonderful people took to actually leave comments in each round regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the various competitors.  Whether due to my own self-interests or just plain laziness, however, I only really read the feedback that regarded Anime B&B.  By doing so, I undoubtedly missed out on valuable criticism aimed at others that could also apply to me.  This is where Foxy Lady’s carnival idea comes into play.

Gaining and keeping readers are tasks that both new and old bloggers struggle with, accomplishments that some seem to achieve naturally.  Unfortunately, talent and the creative eye don’t bless each and every one of us, and there are fatal mistakes repeated time and time again which end up pushing away instead of attracting loyal readers and commenters.  So what does it take to capture your visitors’ attentions, prompting them to hit that subscribe button? Below are my responses to Ayame’s prompts regarding my own process for choosing which blogs to follow:

What do I like to read and for what reasons (reviews, commentaries, editorials)?

Just like the content on my own blog, my interests are varied and piqued by a variety of  animanga blogs.  The vast majority of them are admittedly editorial-based, with post topics focusing in on unique subjects the writer may have noticed in either a single episode, or in an entire series or group of series.  They are also often academic in nature, including references to other online or literary works.  Reading these types of posts are not only illuminating, but also inspirational.  After reading I feel a strange sense of fulfillment from having read something truly worthwhile.  Some good examples of these include,
2DT’s “The Post-Cyberpunk of Steins;Gate”
ajthefourth’s “Notes on Hyouka as an Exploration of Detective Fiction”
Yi’s “Fashionable Nudity in Mawaru Penguindrum”
Akirascuro’s “For The Love of The Logo”
foxy lady’s “Soul and Body: Unbreakable Bonds in xxxHOLiC and TRC”

And then there are even more specialized blogs or singular posts that hold to themes not centered on an actual show, but on various aspects of the Japanese culture that coincidentally are featured in anime or manga.  This may be the official soundtracks or OP and EDs of series, or on a delicious dish that may have been featured in an episode.

Now, there are a select few blogs that I follow for their episodic reviews, but even then, these reviews lean more towards the analytical approach than just the strict summary and thoughts method that so many others tend to use.  A very good example of a blogger who examines anime by episode, highlighting fascinating details I most likely overlooked, is Guardian Enzo (who also blogs for RandomC).  He isn’t so much concerned with the ‘what’ as with the ‘why’, and the level of discussion on an intellectual scale stands on par with any number of my preferred editorial blogs.

What do I do when I stumble across a new blog?

When visiting a new blog, it’s mostly due to a link from either another blog, or because the title caught my interest from AnimeNano.  Because I already have a fairly long list of blogs that I follow on Google Reader, there isn’t really a shortage of blogs for whatever topic I might be interested in.  This is again why editorials make up the majority of my blogroll, as a generic episodic review title (ex: “Hyouka – Ep. 15″) won’t catch my eye.

The usual progression, then, is as follows:
Interesting post > Recent posts > Categories > About Me/Comments > Blogroll

If I like what I read from the post that initially caught my attention, I’ll look to see what else he or she might have written recently that I might like.  Checking recent posts not only shows me other topics of interest, but also reveals the writer’s frequency of posts.  If he or she only posts once every couple of months, I probably won’t add them to my Reader.  Instead, I’ll either check to see if there’s a Twitter for the blog that I can follow, maybe catching any further posts that way, or just hope to see the next entry when it pops up on AnimeNano.

Organized categories are important for a number of reasons, most especially for accessibility.  I’m always looking for excellent writing regarding my favorite anime and manga, and so appreciate being able to quickly check a category list for familiar titles.  If the blogger only has one or two titles that I recognize, that signals to me that this may not be the blog for me as our interests are probably too far apart.

A natural result of enjoying a blog is that I become curious about the writer; what led him or her to blog about anime or manga, and what other similarities might we share? An About Me section isn’t always important for whether or not I choose to subscribe, but it does show the writer’s interest in communicating with his or her readers.  Another major stoplight for me is whether or not the blogger replies to comments.  Not replying to comments from the readers is a huge no-no that can either turn me away from a blog, or deter me from leaving my own comments.

And finally, there’s the blogroll.  Again, this section is not a must, but similar to ‘About Me’, I like to see what other blogs he or she might follow.  It’s oddly gratifying to see if we follow some of the same blogs, and any unfamiliar ones instantly get a push up from being listed on this blog that has most likely earned my affections.

What must a good animanga blog have and do?

Visually please me, or, at the very least, do not bore or distract me!
It wasn’t until my first year participating in the Aniblog Tourney that I stumbled across blogs that seriously offended my eyes, or put me to sleep on a purely visual standpoint.  As Foxy Lady aptly puts it, anime and manga are of the visual culture, and as such, the blogs should reflect that.  No pictures in posts, walls of texts without paragraphs, overly long paragraphs, and inattention to the entire blog’s visual theme are serious offenders of Marina’s Animanga Blog Laws.  A blog’s theme doesn’t have to be extremely fancy or personalized at every corner, like delightful Daifuuku!, but can opt for simple and clean lines with only each post’s images providing the bursts of color.

Make navigation easy!
There’s nothing more frustrating than a blog not having either a search bar, nor a section for categories or tags.  Not including these simple widgets presumes a lot of the reader’s future interests and also damns any of the blog’s older content from ever being read or shared again.

Art by Akashicchan

Provide community links.
It seems common sense, but I have stumbled across blogs that didn’t provide options for subscribing via RSS, E-mail, Twitter, or any other medium.  Sure, I could manually plug in the blog’s URL into Reader, but why force your visitors to go through the extra steps? The online world is a fast-paced beast always on the hunt for the next quickest feast, so neglecting these short cuts can really bring down the traffic of a blog.  Make the links noticeable and hopefully tasteful towards the blog’s overall colors and theme.

Interact with both fellow bloggers and with readers.
As discussed before, a blogger should always reply to the readers’ comments.  Not only is this thankful and polite, but it can also gain future readers.  And just as people tend to judge things by their covers, they often also follow by example.  Seeing that simple bubble at the top of posts denoting the number of comments by other readers somehow prompts me to not only read the post, but to also leave my own thoughts.  This isn’t to say that I would never be the first person to leave notes, but viewing the thoughts of others through the comments proves to me that there are other people, not just the blogger and me, that want to discuss the topic at hand.

Also, again already noted, including a blogroll promotes the animanga community and also reflects well upon the blogger.  The writer is not just a single person in a room bouncing his or her thoughts off the falls and back to herself, but is part of a forum of ideas.

What blogging behaviors annoy me? 

Bag the self pity.  I know that sounds harsh, but I’m really not interested in the occasional post bemoaning a lack of readers, topics, or the quality in present anime.  While negative posts can be fun and clever in their own ways, there’s a clear difference between negative criticism of anime and self-bashing/pointless complaining.  The latter lacks depth and pride in its own possible merits.

There’s no need to sound stuffy to impress your readers.  As an ever present student of literature and critical theory, I appreciate a varied vocabulary and can applaud even the most specialized topic discussions.  However, there are some writers who seem to take annoying pleasure in using big words for the sake of using big words.  More than half the time, they don’t even use them correctly, or just toss them out without following through with examples or explanations.

Don’t be easily offended by negative or critical comments.  I’ve had my fair share of reader comments calling me out on various views and examples, but I’ve always strived to respond with a fair and open mind.  They are entitled to their opinions, and I am at least grateful for the time they took to both read and comment.  Unfortunately, not all bloggers are willing to take advice.  They may either delete the comment, or reply in anger.  This is a shame since he or she could possibly be avoiding a more in-depth or diverse discussion, and ignoring his or her own biases.

And now, I want to direct these same questions to my readers.  You can respond with Anime B&B in mind (and if so, please specify), or other animanga blogs in general.  Please also check out the other participants in you have the time!

Participants:

40 thoughts on “[Carnival] Marina’s Reflections on Animanga Blogs

  1. Great post! I think what you outlined makes sense for any type of blog a person decides to write. Your checklist of what makes a good and attractive blog pretty much sums up what I look for when I read a blog. Replying to comments is definitely something I always try to do. It’s not only polite, but I get excited when I get to discuss what I wrote about further. It also shows the reader that you are reading their comments, and are interested in what they have to say.

    1. Thank you! And you’re right; a lot of the areas I discuss really apply to any type of blog. I remember one of WordPress’ staff writing a short article about comments and how it’s good for everyone when comments are left and replied to.

      Something else I forgot to mention was how if you (as a reader) leave a comment, you should probably also subscribe to the post’s following comments. Sometimes when the blogger replies to a visitor, he or she not only answers questions, but follows through with some for the original commenter.

  2. Hakase, thanks for the good post! :D

    While I don’t agree much with your tastes in terms of anime blog, I TOTALLY agree with your “What blogging behaviors annoy me?” section. On the last point I agree with you “as long as the commenter keep it civil”.
    The moment you step out of the civil discussion by insulting or raging against the blogger, well you MUST expect some mocking back from me. :P

    1. Thank you, thank you; Hakase was hoping for some strawberry milk as a reward ><

      Yes, there definitely is a line in terms of a comment's negativity. Any personal attacks on the blogger or groundless insults deserves a quick delete; however, I think the blogger retaliating in kind only brings you down to their level, but also waste's your and any other readers' time.

  3. Thanks for mentioning me. It’s an honor :) And ofc it’s a joy to see a contribution from you.

    Say, I think I remember you saying sth about the Google Reader option, when we were talking about the carnival. I’m not sure I see it mentioned here and since you found it important, it would be a pity not writing about it. Add an update section, if needed. ; *

    1. Of course! There really are so many great editorials out there from way too many bloggers to list here ^^ Some time back a couple of other bloggers (draggle and Scamp) wrote posts concerning Google Reader and other types of RSS readers.

  4. “It seems common sense, but I have stumbled across blogs that didn’t provide options for subscribing via RSS, E-mail, Twitter, or any other medium.”

    Yeah, it seems kind of weird myself, but if you’ve seen that, then they’re probably not expecting people to actually read their post and just want to blog for the hell of it, because that’s mostly the intention of having a blog and getting it for free. It’s a mentality I can’t really share, but it’s understandable.

    “No pictures in posts, walls of texts without paragraphs, overly long paragraphs, and inattention to the entire blog’s visual theme are serious offenders of Marina’s Animanga Blog Laws.”

    I’m so glad I don’t notice any of these things or let it affect me too much. Well, except the look of a site, it’d have to be something 100% hideous, but I haven’t really run into that yet.

    Also, I agree about the commenting.

    1. True, there are people who blog just for themselves–but in that case, why make the blog public? There are options allowing you to make certain posts private, or even the entire site private. I’m going to continue thinking of anti-repliers as odd!

      And I distinctly remember that one time when OASG had that bright yellow background… :p

      1. It’s the internet…we can do whatever we want. I think you know what I mean :D

        We did? HMM. I don’t remember (attempting to suppress web design woes) :D

  5. That’s a great post. I think that I’ll have to read it a few times and memorize your advice, especially about interacting with other bloggers. Starting with this comment, I’ll try to turn over a new leaf!

    1. I’m glad you thought so! Being a really great communicator actually takes a lot of work, so perhaps it’s not such a good idea to try everything at once ^^ Blogging, replying to comments, reader other blogs, making sure to comment: it’s really time consuming!

  6. Wonderful post~
    Haven’t really stumbled across your blog till now, but I feel like I can really connect with your writing (just the “easy to read” type that I love).

    Anyways, great points on what you’d like to see in an animanga blog! I like how there’s a stress on organization and neatness, which is missing from even some of the top aniblogs. Also, it’s great to see that you’re promoting blogger-to-blogger interaction. While I generally use Twitter for this matter, but I think you’ve sparked some interest in me to start leaving comments more often ^^~!

    Again, great post~ :3

    1. Thank you, thank you! I’m really glad that my style of writing appeals to you. While I do like to give my readers something worthwhile and thought-provoking, I want to speak clearly and help them easily understand where I’m coming from.

      And yes! I promote more commenting out of you ><

  7. This post may not count as an editorial, but indeed I feel inspired by it. At least, inspired enough to get off my lazy behind and also answer Ayame’s call for this blog carnival thing.

    Great job, the post let me gather some insight on other people’s opinions about aniblogging in general.

  8. I never really use Google Reader to read because I actually want to go to the site itself. I guess for me, part of reading blogs is feeling the ambiance that surrounds it AKA the look of the site. It doesn’t have to be so flashy or state of the art but it needs to have that readable neat and distinguished look.

    Also lol I remember being a victim of the whole “My Site doesn’t have Many Views Boohoohoo”. I guess sometimes, no matter how much values you uphold on not pimping yourself out and not being an attention hogger, you just can’t help but think of ways to be popular.

    1. “I never really use Google Reader to read because I actually want to go to the site itself.”

      I can get behind this sentiment. It makes it easier to read posts for some, but yeah I do prefer going to the actual blog myself.

    2. Well, it’s not like I avoid the actual sites; I just like to see everything compiled together in one place. If I like what I’m reading in Reader, then I’ll go ahead and follow the link to the blog and hopefully comment. Also, quite a few of my favorite bloggers have personalities so vibrant that I feel it even through the generic template of Reader ^^

      Yup, yup, I do understand the desire for readers/comments and even that hopeless thought that I’ll never improve. That’s why I encourage community involvement not only in commenting on other blogs, but also participating in carnivals like this. Every time I’ve written a carnival post, I’ve received upward of 20 comments (including my replies of course) and many more overall views.

  9. It still bothers me I wasn’t better able to follow the tourney.

    With me comments are huge. I readily admit my blogs were not good. My writing is poor as you can tell from my comments. The reason I earned readers was my comments and just how open I am about my life and how crazy my life is.

    As for me following blogs it’s the people. I don’t have a blog type I follow. I start following most blogs because of comments. Seeing how bloggers interact is what often grabs me. I started following you after seeing you ask for bloggers to check you out in a blogging club on MAL I randomly checked out.

    Lastly I have no clue how to begin talking about Trigun Maximum now that it’s not feeling like deja vu. I never have been able to do that kind of writing. Sorry.

    1. You describe perfectly why it’s so important to pay attention to your readers and what they have to say. Not creating that connection is the biggest mistake a blogger who wants to grow can make.

      And I’m sure the Tourney will come around again some day, maybe in the next two years, maybe less, maybe more. Don’t worry about it :)

  10. Bagging self-pity is also something I disliked, but it’s also something I cannot avoid altogether. Most people aren’t strong and I myself aren’t definitely the strongest person in the world, as I also feel slightly gloomy at times. I usually don’t show it in my posts though (hopefully) and even if I do show my inferiority (I think I slightly did during the tourney, the nervousness of the first-timer~) I tend to express myself the willingness to learn and to move forward. Now that when I think about it, it’s amazing that i went through the whole tourney without advertising my links and just talk about all these.

    1. I’m definitely not saying that I don’t have my own weaknesses or that I’m immune to self-pity. However, I try to find other places to vent my frustration (Twitter, by reading the types of posts I’d like to be able to write like, maybe stepping away from the blogging world for a little bit). Your willingness to learn is a wonderful motivation that I hope you never lose and is an aspect that some bloggers lack.

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