Design-Driven Results

This is kind of off-topic for this blog, maybe, but it’s probably worth noting a few things. So it goes. These things are about how the choices you make, perhaps seemingly minor, can have a big, big impact in the long run.

There’s this anime blog tournament going on. I think it’s a worthwhile exercise because in order to have a working blog scene, you need to have some required things going on, elements. One of these elements is enough of a reader base that will sufficiently bleed out information beyond purely linking and relying on analytics and trackbacks in order to create the “social networking” effect. For example, if person A writes an interesting blog post about Amazon’s monopsony, and person B has never heard of person A or his blog before, but is interested in the content of A’s blog post, how can B discover A’s blog post? If person B’s daily reading of internet stuff overlaps part of the network in which A’s blog post traverses, such as if B reads a blog post that links to A’s blog, then maybe. Or if B reads person C’s twitter in which C comments on A’s blog post, for another example. You get what I’m saying. But in both of these cases it means some person C has to read person A’s blog, or maybe C is just like B and is not regularly reading a part of A’s blog post’s network, and some person D has to fill in that role. In other words, someone has to act as an intermediary.

This is why in order for a blog to actually achieve some degree of the network effect, it has to:

  • get a lot of readers, and/or
  • get some readers who are heavy-duty cross-posting or networking “nodes”

Invariably a lot of bloggers themselves are heavy-duty readers of other people’s blogs, in order to cull and come up with new things to put in their blogs. They also link out to other people’s writing, as blogs themselves present one way for the network to exist. But I can tell you first hand this is not easy work, and quite frankly I can’t do it because uh…what is commonly described as anime blogging is not something I have a high tolerance for. So when something like AnimeNano or the Aniblog tournament exists, it becomes a way for blogs that very few people read to get read. Someone does the curating for you, as much (in the Aniblog tourney case) or as little (in the anano case) as the case may be. Or in my case, very rarely do I link out to an anime blog! Kind of weird isn’t it.

I think it’s fair criticism to say the Aniblog tournament is an exercise in circle-jerking, as a result of this simple mechanics in play. Fact remains that most people already read blogs they want to read, and blogs with the stronger networks invariably will do better simply because they are better recognized and have more readers. Blogs that have more readers will move on further, since it’s a popularity contest. Meanwhile blogs with few readers are often blogs where the blogger is the most active networker as part of that blog, and s/he will end up being most invested in the Aniblog tourney, adding to the circle-jerkiness. But let’s face it, when you have a blog that makes a big PR move and links to a bunch of other blogs, all it’s doing it simply networking.

In order to min-max this effect I think the Aniblog tourney people should move away from a single elimination format and just have every blog pit against the two or four most-read blogs. I mean, let’s drop the facade. I think psgels would rather want to get it over with using minimal effort by winning against every anime blog out there via a few big polls, where all his readers will get a chance to read the competition and not just on the days where he’s actually pitted against some blog that was tortured long enough to get that far. And in some ways, I think it may benefit everyone the most this way–more readers will find more blogs they might want to read, after all, and it avoids the situation when you involve the blogs with the biggest readership only in matches where the competition are already well-read. The gain is minimal in that latter scenario.

Moving it away from single-elimination will also reduce the appearance of circle-jerkiness. I mean by playing it up like a sai-moe-whatever-thing type game, you are sure to attract the most heavy networkers who are also already bloggers and not a whole lot of people who stand to gain the most from the networking exercise, but just like a sai-moe-whatever-thing type game, it will not interest the wider public unless it engages the most popular sites. Having everyone engaged all the time is for sure a great way to reduce that circle-jerk appearance. Sure, having this sort of fancy elimination format adds the entertainment value of the tournament but really, I guess that is the true cancer that is killing anime blogging. I mean, really, I’d rather read some blog who puts in effort and write something amusing about anime than some meta exercise about popularity of blogs. I think the way the tourney is set up this time is a major step backwards for that reason, by “seeding” better-read blogs and giving them byes.

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I do want to talk about Amazon’s monopsony for a minute; please do read this article. I think Japanese publishing is also, like American publishing, ripe for disruption. But who will do it?  Amazon is no doubt in talk with Japan with the entire controversy regarding the DOJ suit over here as the backdrop, with all that nonsense about agency and wholesale and profit sharing, etc. But will they make the same mistake American publishers did with DRM? I cannot imagine a world where Japanese publishers cast away their DRM. It just seems like psychologically impossible. Does this mean the same thing will happen to Japanese publishing? I know Apple had issues making leeway because of their stance on censorship and what not, so it will be a war between walled gardens to see who wins the Japanese market. It is about exciting as seeing a bunch of old men punching each other in the face, except they’re doing it in Scrooge McDuck’s money bin.

As an aside, I think Amazon’s devices may do well in Japan. It’s definitely got a winning formula in the US and Europe. And the price! How can one of the most frugal first-world country in the world say no to that?

Yeah, I like that article because it posits the double-edge of DRM. Loved the irony.

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Small plug for Nippon Columbia’s paid-for streaming music service, FaRao. This is almost god-send-y. Only if I can actually use it! Or I should say, only if their app works on my phone without crashing every time I try to create an account. Supposedly a flash-based web UI will be available at some point soon.

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13 responses to “Design-Driven Results

  • Stef

    So, where would you say you stand on the “Blog Popularity Scale”?

    Is it wrong to say I very much enjoyed having the end of the world by Amazon explained to me? It was way more exciting than that 2012 movie.

  • Smithy

    Interesting viewpoint on that aniblog tourney! Something I personally did like about its previous run was how it introduced me to a few interesting blogs I didn’t know about before.

    However it did also show me there’s also some anime blogs that get a lot of readers/comments with posts that reek of populism and are superficial writings driven by teen hormones with catchphrases aimed at luring in views.
    (Which isn’t something my own small blog could compete against. Not that I’d actually want to anyway, my content and writings are mild because well… I’m a mild -also older- person, lol. )

    Oh and I agree with Stef on that article on Amazon vs the 2012 movie. XD

  • omo

    My blog is not popular. If traffic means anything ever since the hiatus and move in 2010, I’ve seen maybe 30% decrease in traffic. However I’m thinking most of those I lost are bots. I kept my domain name and it helped keeping the transition as smooth as it could have been.

    To be honest I am more interested in like-minded criticism and discussion than something much more than what a popularity contest serves. Thanks to twitter I can get my interaction on that way. Blogging is democratic and decentralized; what you want is something like a Anano or Reddit or /. to curate content produced. Interestingly among anime bloggers, it seems more like we are after personalities, thus there is a demand for team blogging rather than disembodied pieces of information/entertainment floating out there.

  • chikorita157

    Of course, content is more important than how many comments a blog has or pageviews… But still, I view anime blogging as a means of having fun and sharing my thoughts, not so much about for the fame. Not only that, it’s a nice social experience since I got to know more people in the blogosphere that I haven’t before.

    Aniblog Tourney a circle jerk contest? Probably yes… but it has some advantages such as increased exposure, especially for newer or unknown blogs.

  • omo

    “But still” cancer that is killing anime blogging you mean.

  • Michael is Low on Hit Points

    Also, burnout. With soooo many anime blogs competing (good god the sphere has exploded) and the format as it is, this tournament will still be going on by the time the next aniblog tourney is supposed to begin. How many people will still give a shit once the glow has worn off and we’re a month (I can’t believe I just wrote ‘month’; Scamp, wtf were you thinking?) into this thing.

  • omo

    Scamp is clearly in for the long run. I think a few months ago he took a poll of which blogs survived since the last time stuff happened, and it was better than what you’d expect.

  • fencedude

    One sorta nifty idea of how he has it set up is that the really big name blogs (like for example Sea Slugs! *cough*) won’t even compete till the third round, thus bringing in a lot of new energy right when you’d expect it to start lagging.

  • Shance

    But doesn’t that also mean that these blogs will need to continuously convince people to read their blogs in order to be able to get a strong community base that can compete with these old-timers? I don’t really see the energy in that. Effort, yes. But energy? No.

  • omo

    I’m not sure what you mean, but it’s more like if you want to do a competition, you want to give equal exposure when you can.

  • Kylaran

    I’m not sure you’d be helping the smaller blogs by pitting them against larger ones, mainly because of the populism that you’ve already mentioned. If the huge blogs have a dedicated readership and have fans, then in the end it’s just a bit hopeful to assume that an increase in voters for the poll will result in an increase in the number of people who view a smaller blog or even subscribe to it.

    In this case, I think there’s a lot of merit to having smaller unknown blogs compete against one another in single elimination because two unknown blogs might lead someone to look at both blogs (even if it’s just skimming through the articles) before voting.

  • omo

    I think there are no reason to assume either of your statements are the “best case.” By limiting yourself to a single, 1 vs. 1 elimination format you are doing just that: limiting the amount of exposure any one blog could have.

    From an exposure point of view I don’t see how my case would be worse than what you’ve stated–which is the current situation. For one, it will be less work and will probably take less than 2 months to complete the entire thing, if you go for just a modified round robin setup with multiple blogs per match. If you pit one large blog against anywhere from 3-9 smaller ones, I don’t think the populism will be a problem, or no worse than what it is currently.

    In my opinion this current setup at the aniblog tourney is close to the worse case scenario, from an exposure point of view. The only real advantage is that by having a bunch of blogs few people read being showcased against other blogs that few people read, the people who are interested in the tourney will be able to “single them out” and they won’t get lost in the noise as easily. But I take that as an assumed audience–people interested in the tourney will follow and check out all the blogs from the start regardless how you organize the polls. It’s the people who aren’t interested in the tourney that is largely lost with this arrangement. And I think this group of people is several times larger if not an entire magnitude larger than the people who are voting in the first few rounds.

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