Do’s and Don’t’s: A Look at The Pink Sylphide

(Note: This was written Tuesday, although not posted until Thursday.)

Today’s my second day in a row unable to go to work due to the I-15 freeway closure, thanks to a fire along the route. I already had a lot of work I’d barely get done before month’s-end, so now I’m going to have a lot of work. What I wouldn’t give for VPN access right now.

I decided to use this free time to check out anime blogs. I generally don’t read anime blogs because they’re one of two things: episode summaries and thoughts on the latest anime being shown in Japan and the latest fansub efforts (neither of which I watch), or they’re just episode summaries (and I can watch an episode if I want to know what happens in it). I do realize the readership is in writing about Lucky Star last season, and Clannad this season, and there’s no readership in blogging about A Little Snow Fairy Sugar and Janggeum’s Dream, so it’s a fault entirely of mine for me to enjoy older shows. (The exception is Janggeum’s Dream, which had its second series this year, but because I post in advance, my Janggeum’s Dream series two posts won’t even start showing up at least until January.)

Having looked at Anime なの (Anime Nano) recently, it looks as if it’s in a stagnated state of growth. I decided to check out Anime Blogger, only to find the series list doesn’t have a single show I’d want to read commentary on. I looked around a bit, hoping to maybe find some worthwhile general commentaries, opinions, rants. I’d like to have more general opinions here on The Pink Sylphide, but I haven’t gotten around to that, which is always a bad sign. If you plan to do something, and you don’t do it, then you won’t get around to it.

I ended up at a post on Anime on My Mind, which is one of the blogs I do read, even if it’s a lot of skipping over episode commentaries and posts with content not to my fancying. It’s hard for someone like me to find anime blogs to read when I don’t understand the concept of “moe”, I don’t know any anime memes, and I have negative interest in “fan service”, items which appear staple of most any blog worth reading. This particular post was about “anime blog quality rating.”

The aforementioned post led to a prior post, “the do’s and don’t’s of anime blogging”. Since I’m at home with nothing to do but worry about how far behind I’ll be at work, worry about how many changes outside of my control with how we receive and work on files means no one else can do a majority of my work right now, putting everyone else behind, and worry about whether I’ll be able to even make it to work this week at all, and let’s add in a worry of the PTO hours I’m using up…where was I going, again? Oh, right, I decided to check out these two posts by Jason of Anime on My Mind and see how they compare to my own “blog”.

Purpose of This Site

Before going over Jason’s “do’s and don’t’s”, I should first consider the purpose of my site. That purpose changed many times up through the launch of the site. The current purpose, no matter what may be stated elsewhere at the time of this post, is to get me writing. To get me writing almost every day, at least five times a week. The goal of getting me writing has been a success, so it’s actually now to keep me writing. Writing at least times a week. It doesn’t have to be worthwhile writing, but if I write something I realize to be not worthwhile for me to re-read, I don’t post it.

Jason’s “Do’s and Don’t’s”

DO have a descriptive blog name. … since most other blogs, when they link to you, only show a name, it makes sense to have a name that, well, makes sense. Nonsensical names just obfuscates your blog and makes it harder to promote. Might be cooler and more fun for you, but, generally, not for any visitors.

One reason for choosing “The Pink Sylphide” was because this would be a combination anime (and otherwise) commentary and review blog, and a place to post chapters of a story of mine, about a group of fairies. The story fits in line with a lot of the anime I watch, so it all goes together to that extent. However, I haven’t gotten around to writting much, and I have no art ability so I haven’t even produced an artwork of the titular Pink Sylphide to put at the top of the site.

Nonetheless, I think the title of “The Pink Sylphide” is fitting. Pink is a “girly” color, and a sylph is very fairy-like in nature. Doesn’t that just make you think “girly fairy cartoons”? A Little Snow Fairy Sugar, Petite Princess Yucie, Bottle Fairy…I rest my case. Also, I didn’t want anything Japanese anime-specific, as I don’t plan to limit my posting to Japanese animation exclusively. Janggeum’s Dream is the first series outside of Japanese animation I’m posting on, but there’s a live action series I’m planning on writing episode commentary on as well, even though it’s not girly and it has no fairies.

DON’T have any DBZ references in your anime blog name. I sure won’t be visiting any blog with “Super Saiyan” in the title. Also, don’t have a boring name… yeah, yeah, I know I’m being picky, but you should be picky about the name.

Little known fact: “The Pink-Haired Super Saiyan” was not on the table as a site name idea.

DO post about things that are interesting. Probably the number one reason I’ll visit an anime blog is to find something interesting, like something I might have missed in an episode of He Is My Master, or why should I start watching Uta Kata. I think the most successful anime blogs are the ones that get me to watch something that I normally wouldn’t watch.

Going back to autumn of 2006, when I first planned on this site, it was going to be an anime reviews blog, with the purpose being non-spoiler reviews to introduce a series to someone who hasn’t seen it, but might be interested in it. I’ve only written up one thus far, unfortunately, and I refer to this type of post as a preview.

I think one of the reasons I like reading episode commentaries are for the same reason here: spotting something I may have missed. Writing episode commentaries gives me a chance to analyze what happened, so I notice more things and actually remember key items better than if I watched an episode without reviewing its contents and writing about them. Even more, I enjoy reading episode commentary for a series I’ve completed so I can see it through the eyes of someone else. What did they pick up on that I missed? What did they miss? How did they see things differently from me?

DON’T force yourself to post about every single episode. If I can only give one piece of advice, it would be that posting about every single episode of a series will only wear you out and will eventually sap the fun of anime blogging. Anime blogging is not a chore. It is not a job. If an episode is not interesting or if you don’t feel like writing about it, just don’t. Personally, if I see a blog that has posts: Bleach episode 1. Bleach episode 2. *snip* Bleach episode 51. I’m probably going to move on. There is no shame in jumping around.

I’ve considered blogging about Sailormoon, and the English dub versus the original. If I did this, I would definitely be fitting commentary on two to ten episodes in many of the posts. There’s no question about that.

However, most of the series I watch are 26 episodes long, which is much more reasonable. I watched the first two series of Ojamajo Doremi, totalling in at 100 episodes, and what might one notice about my blogging habits of this series? Not a single episode commentary. I would never get by doing commentary on 100 episodes, and that’s just the first two series. I’m still waiting for the third and four series (and hopefully the Ojamajo Doremi Naisho mini-series) to get Taiwan releases, so I can afford them, and that will add over 100 more episodes to watch.

DO have a voice. DON’T be a clone.

I’m working on this one. Or should be. Want to be working on it. Want to get to posting more than episode commentaries. Maybe one day? Famous last words…

DO post an opinion. Please. “It sucks.” “It’s awesome.” Both equally valid. Do show your preferences… for instance, I like nekomimi meido, and I definitely don’t hide that fact. Do act like a fanboy/fangirl. If you have an anime blog, chances are—congratulations—you are one!

Let’s see what I’ve written:

When I bought this series, I wasn’t sure quite what I’d be getting. It looked like it might be a nice fluff anime to pass time with. Seeing the medieval world improved my expectations, as that’s a kind of world I enjoy reading and viewing.

… to be honest, the first time I watched this episode, I wasn’t sure what was going on at times.

It’s rare for me to fall in love with a new series by the first episode alone. Usually it takes at least a few episodes for me to even begin to understand everything going on. With Sugar, however, everything was just right from the start.

I’d say these qualify as putting not only my opinion in, but my own views and personality. I like medieval. I like cute. I like slow-moving and easygoing rather than fast-paced and hectic.

DON’T post just a summary. If I want to find out what happens in Eureka seveN episode 5, I’d watch the … thing myself. I want to know stuff like, “Do you think Talho’s his sister?” “Is the series starting off a bit weak?”

That’s what I’m saying! If you’re just going to give an episode summary, I have no reason to read it. I can understand putting an episode summary alongside a commentary, in case someone needs a refresher, but a lot of times I’ll see ten paragraphs of summary and two small paragraphs of commentary. If you’re going to put in an episode summary about that mysterious, sad-faced lady watching over Janggeum in the forest, tell me why you think she’s watching over Janggeum, and let me see you ponder over why she looks so sad. I know I sure said something about her.

DO try to come up with creative post ideas, kudasai!

Coming up with creative post ideas is easy. Actually writing them, on the other hand… Personally, I’ve been wondering why the “blog carnival” phenomenon hasn’t hit the anime blogging scene. Is the anime blogging scene too decentralized? I know it doesn’t involve an elitist history of not linking outside your own blog, as many blogs have blog lists with a hundred blogs. Does a person even keep up with all 100 blogs their linking out to? I’d rather see a blog linking to 10 blogs you know they read, rather than 100 blogs you know they don’t read, because at least 10 of them are dead links, and another 20 haven’t had a post in over a year. Oops, that’s getting off topic!

DON’T rely exclusively on the: “<Series> Episode <#>” and “Look, I just bought these DVDs” type of posts. Another post structure, por favor!

Erm, well… Hey, how about those Japanese words? Never mind my hiatus on that as I just finished watching Janggeum’s Dream only to learn there’s a second series to start watching. Spending two months with a Korean series makes it hard to post about Japanese verbs. Please be understanding while I enjoy a non-Japanese series. 감사합니다!

DO update once in a while. Content = win!

If I’m writing four to five pieces a week, and posting about three to four a week, then I should have a nice backlog growing, to keep up the pace. Now to fit in more editorials, opinion pieces, cultural notes and commentaries, and such into my posting…

DON’T think “newer” = “better.” There’s nothing wrong about talking about series that ended ten years ago. Not everything has to be about the newest fansub, raw, or DVD.

Finally, this one is for me! Never mind that I’m watching Janggeum’s Dream, series two raw while hoping for a DVD release with English subtitles. Most shows I write commentary on are at least a year old, if not a few years old.

DO include images. I like pictures. However, DON’T make said images tiny. If you must have tiny images for layout reasons, provide links to larger ones.

Larger ones would be too much work for me. I put screenshots in so someone can instantly identify with which episode my commentary is on. After all, the commentary is for people who have seen the episode. Additionally, it’s quick recognition for me if I need to locate a specific episode’s post to refer to for some reason.

DO “clean up” screenshots. Level adjust on most image manipulation programs does wonders.

When I was planning on blogging about Saint Tail, this was something in need of careful work, as the TokyoPop DVDs are not the best of quality. Now there’s a series where I wouldn’t be able to blog about each and every episode. Maybe I should take another try at it, putting more focus on the episodes based on comic chapters, and combining thoughts on non-comic-based episodes into single posts. There’s a lot of potential for opinion on events and their lack of effect on the overall plot in there, I just know it.

DON’T hotlink images off of other people. Big no-no. DO include images relevant to a post.

This one just goes without saying.

DON’T include more than ~20 images on a page as many images becomes a latency issue rather than a bandwidth issue. Breaking up an image heavy post into multiple pages is not a sin and may speed things up in general.

And this is why I have a single image collage per post, and no more than five posts on any given page (main page, category page, archive page). I do use PNG format for top quality, but I compress the images down a good bit. I think 350KB isn’t a bad upper range, especially compared against blogs with upwards of 20 screenshots per post.

DO warn if images are spoilers (I screw this up quite a bit!).

I do put a notice at the top of episode commentary about it being for someone who’s seen the episode, but by then one’s already seen the screenshots. Images obviously call ones attention before text. I do try to not put “spoiler” images in my screenshots, but some might slip in. While the screenshots are for one who’s seen the episode, they might be seen accidentally before one has a chance to see the episode, and that’s a good enough reason for me to try and be more careful when selecting screenshots for my collages.

DON’T include non-worksafe images without warning.

This is a given, when it comes to me. I don’t include non-worksafe images, period.

DO branch out. Sometimes a post comparing Cowboy Bebop to Serenity could be interesting. Or maybe some impressions on One Piece Grand Battle.

I’ll have to keep this one in mind…

DON’T post pictures of your cat. Unless your “cat” is really a hawt nekomimi meido. Then, please do, and send hi-res images to jason at…

I have other places for that, so…

DO keep a blogroll. Part of blogging is to recommend other blogs. Think of it as your civic duty to help the pagerank of blogs that you like.

Earlier this year (around the start of summer), I tossed about 30 to 40 anime blogs into my feed reader. Counting one I added today, I’m at 11 right now, one of which hasn’t had a new post in over two months. I’m still learning about these blogs, which I read, which I skip over the posts on, which inspire me, etc. Maybe I’ll consider a blogroll for the new year?

DON’T link to blogs you don’t visit at least on a semi-regular basis. I see blogs with blogrolls like 800 links long. Uh, do you really visit all those blogs, are you just trying to improve your pagerank by trading links?

I’m more likely to link to specific posts on a blog, such as in this post. If I do put up a blogroll, it will only be to places I actively read. I can’t just dump the list of sites in my feed reader into a blogroll as I first would need to determine how many posts on each blog I’ve read over the past two months, so I know if it’s something associated with my interests. If not, then why would I recommend it to others? It might fit the interests of many others, that’s true. However, if I read a blog, and I find the blogger to be interesting, I would like his blogroll to be what he finds a good read, not just a list of “oh, yeah, here are other anime blogs”.

DO moderate or filter your comments. Allowing comment spam to sit there is just victory for the spammers. Unless your post is about Keiichi Morisato and how he refinanced at some low home mortgage rate… then that’s a different issue.

I don’t allow comments on episode commentaries currently. I don’t have any repeat visitors as I blog about older and “unknown” series. While this might score me points as being on Jason’s “do” list, it doesn’t exactly attract very many readers! I’m waiting for a reader to happen upon The Pink Sylphide, say “Hey, here’s commentary on Petite Princess Yucie. I love that series,” then follow up with, “Hm, A Little Snow Fairy Sugar? I’ve never heard of it, but it looks like something I’d be interested in. I’ll definitely check it out!” Perhaps even a little of, “This guy likes the same series as I do. Maybe I can find something else I’d like here.” Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

DON’T resort to captcha out of laziness. Why I don’t like captcha: (1) It’s false security. Most captcha scripts rely on either wordlists or random generators, and wordlists are easily broken. Random generators take a bit more time, but they can be OCR’ed and broken. I’ve seen bots that can break pretty much all of WordPress’ captcha plugins. (2) They block the blind. They should be able to post just like anyone else.

Not only captcha, but registration also. Requiring registration might also help cut down on spam, but it also adds a barrier to entry for commenters and potential long-time readers.

DO post your name somewhere. Makes a blog seem a bit more personable.

My about page can use a lot of work, but my name is there, as well as on all of my postings.

DON’T call yourself “Sephiroth82.” Apologies to all the Sephiroths out there… actually, no, no apology. Use your own name or come up with a better handle.

What? You mean a name like AnimeFan346 won’t get me far in life? Who knew? (Well, obviously Sephiroth82 didn’t. Just ask Google.)

DO try to make your blog look different than everyone else’s. But, DON’T sacrifice content for it, i.e. content always trumps presentation. Generally, all I look for in a blog’s style are (1) readable fonts (2) large images that I don’t have to squint at (3) Firefox parsable. If your blog is IE-only, I’m not going to visit.

My layout’s changed a few times, but always has had the same basic look and feel. I always use simplistic designs, and that’s what’s seen here. If a simple design isn’t enough to separate it from other blogs with simple designs, then the use of pink has to differentiate it from others.

I’m hoping the fonts are readable, but it can be hard to tell when one has a default font size of 14 in all his browsers. The layout’s CSS is written to specification (yes, I’m one of those web geeks who’s read and understood the technical recommendations), so I don’t know how broken it might be in Internet Explorer 6. I would check at work, but our Internet filter horribly miscategorizes my site, blocking it as a result.

DON’T be evil. Don’t include idiotic scripts like popup ads or music that plays in the background or prevents users from right clicking. Make the user want to come back and visit again. And don’t ramble on for like 2,000 words like what I’m doing now.

I keep Javascript disabled, so I don’t even use any on my site. As for making the user want to come back and visit again, I’ll ponder on ways of doing that later. Procrastination always works out in the end, right?

DO have fun.

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