Random Thoughts: Blog review scoring is hard

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Nezuko is not amused

I get the feeling that this is going to be false advertising, so I apologize in advance. Adding scores to reviews isn’t exactly a novel thing, but I’ve always done it for a reason. It’s nothing special. I just like having a rough gauge for how I felt about a show at a particular point in time. This is why I don’t go crazy with 100-point scales or letter grades, since I’m not looking for any kind of specificity.

Kei searches a crowd

I’m actually kind of curious how many people have some formal rubric for reviewing a show. I’m not necessarily knocking it. As a disorganized wreck, I can understand reaching for anything to keep me slightly in line. To be honest, I just think I would be nervous about holding myself to that level of consistency. I would hope that my opinions have changed drastically over the years, so I would hate to hold my past self to my current standards.

About to do something bad

I think that’s one of the fun things about having a blog and writing about what you enjoy. When you look back, you can see what’s changed and what’s stayed constant. As a result, I feel like I have a better sense of what’s important to me and where my strengths are. Scoring helps to quantify what shows I preferred watching over others, but there are definitely some shows that I’ve rated as 6 or 7 that I would watch again and again.

Hana apologizes for the insult

In the end, I think that tastes are such a fluid thing that keeping scores consistent across everything is just a hassle. Maybe I’m just stating the obvious, but this is ultimately the reason that I don’t put as much stock into scores. However, I do find some use in my old anime scores, so I consequently find use in the scores of others.

Demon lord wants some real words

I know it’s easy to dump on MAL scores and the like, but I think they’re ultimately a comparative scale. There’s no reason for the score to be absolute, but it can help put things into perspective. Where do I differ from the curve and where do I agree? But that’s how I see things. I’d be curious to see what you think, so let me know!

Marth’s 5 Favorite Shows Covered On This Blog

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Searching for Bahamut

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time writing blog posts about anime, it’s that I have weird tastes. I’ve always felt like writing stuff on this blog has pushed me to watch a wide breadth of shows. When you start a new season, you can only guess at how you’ll react to each of the shows, so it’s almost like a lottery.

For better or for worse, you choose the shows that you’re going to watch, and if you’re like me, you stick with them. So to make things interesting, I’ll be talking about 5 shows that I really enjoyed that have been covered on this blog. It’s interesting for me to wonder if I would have even watched these shows if not for this blog. And to make it a bit harder on myself, I won’t be choosing anything too recent.

This will be easy

5. Ikoku Meiro no Croisee

Oh, the joys of humble beginnings. This series tells the story of Yune, a Japanese girl is brought to Paris by a travelling French man named Oscar. She brought to stay with Claude, an ironworker living in a small market in the city who initially rejects her. Together, the two learn more about each other while exploring a historical Paris.

I wasn’t a huge fan of slice of life shows back in the day, so my perception of the show when it was airing probably wasn’t too great. But looking back, it has that perfect combination of fluff, a historical setting, and the general theme of culture shock, which are all fun for me.

It's confirmed

4. Hyouka

I’ve always had a fondness for this series (which probably came through when I re-watched and reviewed it). The story follows Houtarou Oreki, a lazy student who lives by an “energy conserving” motto. He’s forced to join the Classics Club by his sister and meets Eru Chitanda, a curious girl who perpetually drags Houtarou on her investigations. I’ve always seen the series as a surprisingly chill set of mysteries, which I think is fun to watch. Not everything has to be about murders and intrigue, right?

3. Chihayafuru

Does this count as my sports series for the list? To be honest, it might be one of the earlier shoujo series that I watched. The series covers the Japanese game of karuta, a card game that involves quickly swiping at a card based on a poem being read aloud. The main character, Chihaya Ayase, discovers the game through a childhood friend, and she carries that passion when he moves away. The story follows her as she attempts to enter the world of competitive karuta as a high schooler. While it’s a game I would never really play myself, I thought the series approaches in a cool way with some likable characters to keep things fun.

Accelerator wonders what the sisters are doing

2. Psycho Pass

Well, it can’t all be fun and games, right? This series might be the most well-known one on the list, and it was definitely one that I enjoyed as it aired. For those that don’t know, the series takes place in a futuristic world where artificial intelligence is used to judge criminals based on their mental state. The main character, Akane Tsunemori, is a new recruit in the police force who learns about this system and its deceptive limitations. I think that the series covers an interesting sci-fi topic well, so it was pretty much right in my wheelhouse.

1. Uchuu Kyoudai (Space Brothers)

Hoo boy, how did I make it through such a long series? I think I skipped episodes here and there, but this is probably the longest series I’ve covered on this blog. And to be fair, I think it was well worth it. The series follows Mutta Nanba, a salaryman with a passion for space. When his brother achieves his childhood dream of going to the Moon, Mutta is inspired to pursue his own dream of reaching Mars and applies to become an astronaut. I really enjoyed this series for its portrayal of a competitive sibling rivalry. I also how it says that it’s never too late to work towards your goals.

Blogging Anniversary Year 8: Feeling obligatory for some reason

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8 years of blogging

So…yeah, my blog apparently hit 8 years this week. If I had realized sooner that this would be happening now, I may have planned better for it. Why can’t these things happen at a more predictable time? I don’t typically make a fuss about anniversaries, but this one happened to hit at particularly experimental time. Hopefully, you’ve noticed this by now, but I’ve been trying a lot of different things recently. And since I don’t know how long-winded this will get, I’ll make this point early. I don’t know if people actually have any questions for me, but feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll do my best to respond to them. Note that I will likely ignore questions that get too personal.

Kei must be stopped

It’s hard to remember how much of my story I’ve told throughout the years, so here’s (hopefully) a condensed version. This blog started as a bit of a pet project back when I was a fresh-faced college graduate. I wanted to channel at least some of my free time into something productive, and I’d always been curious about running a website. At the time, I was considering writing about Rubik’s Cubes, video games, or anime. After deciding that I didn’t have anything new to add to the world of Rubik’s Cubes and that I wasn’t good enough at video games, I wrote a review about Code Geass and went from there. Back then, I never would have guessed I’d still be writing blog posts now.

Shaky advice break: You don’t have to know what you want to get out of blogging to give it a shot. It may end up not being right for you, but you’re not going to figure that out until you try. You don’t need to have some grand plan to get the most views or make a living. Just do what makes sense to you.

Kohaku runs an experiment with Yuito and Hitomi

As many fellow bloggers may relate, I started out trying various things before settling on episode reviews. If there was one thing I learned from college, it was that my writing skills were pitiful. So, it was around that time that I decided to write daily posts. After all, they say that practice makes perfect. While I didn’t end up with a shining writing career as a result, this blog is partially the inspiration for my current work as a software developer. Before starting the blog, I’d never taken a computer class in my life. However, I made the decision in March 2012 to invest in my own domain and hosting.

Shaky advice break: It’s important to play to your own strengths. I consider my strengths to be consistency and conciseness, which is why I initially latched on to the idea of writing daily posts about individual episodes. Daily posts aren’t for everyone.

Raphtalia questions your laziness

I started out with a self-hosted WordPress install, so not much changed. I also ended up buying a fairly fancy hosting package, which allowed me to worry very little about things like backups and bandwidth. Honestly, I didn’t think much had changed from my technical knowledge, but I decided to change that by seriously pursuing computer science. Once I found that programming was something that I enjoyed doing, I started my next project: building my own site from the ground up.

Shaky advice break: Hosting packages are typically priced with the expectation that you’ll be unwilling to switch hosts after your first year. That’s why you’ll typically see new account deals for much lower prices. These prices will almost always go up by a lot after you renew the hosting.

It's nothing important

I make it sound so fancy, but it was really a side project. It took me almost a year to rebuild my site in Python (it went live around my blog anniversary in 2016). It’s honestly a great feeling. It’s a lot of pressure, but I have full control over what my site can do for me, and I use that power to automate the more repetitive tasks. For example, did you know that my blog automatically generates the HTML for every one of my images and inserts them into my posts? Granted, I could have done this with a WordPress install, but I chose to use a framework that I enjoyed more. One day, I hope to have the time to go back to WordPress, so I can give advice for the many people who use it as a preferred platform.

Shaky advice break: If there’s something that you do every single time you publish a post, try to think of ways to automate it. You don’t need to be an insane programmer to find a script to save yourself some time.

Time to give some honest answers

Have I ever written a blog post this long? So much for being concise. If you’ve made it down this far, I want to sincerely thank you. I’m terrible at expressing it, but I always appreciate readers like you. It’s a large part of why I’ve continued to exist.

As I’ve said many times in this post, I’m at a point where I’m trying all kinds of new things with this blog, so don’t be afraid to give me any feedback. Seriously, I won’t be offended. This has long been an episodic post blog, and I aim to change that. But all of that aside, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about my experience as a blogger. I especially enjoy giving technical pointers despite my massive case of impostor syndrome. Again, I can’t promise any answers to personal questions.

Happy New Year 2019: Blogging Resolutions

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Kohaku runs an experiment with Yuito and Hitomi

So, it’s a new year, and I wanted to try something different (as always). Since this is a time of resolutions, I figured I’d set some blogging-related resolutions for myself. I think it’s a good opportunity to talk about what I’m thinking (since I tend to keep to myself), and get some feedback about the direction I’m considering for the blog. And since this post will act as a record, I can refer back to it at the end of the year to see how I did. You know, for research purposes…

As always, let me know what you think. And if you’re feeling brave, feel free to share your own goals.

Yuu is upset

Write more full series reviews

I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record with this, but I’m planning to put more effort into writing reviews about entire series rather than just episodic reviews. Hopefully, the reviews I did on Zombieland Saga and Yuru Camp are steps in that direction. I think it will add more variety to my posts and help change the way I look at shows, since I tend to think more about specific events rather than overarching concepts.

I’ve gotten myself stuck into a bit of a mental spiral when it comes to full series reviews, and I’m trying to get past it. What inevitably happens is that a season ends, and I stop myself from writing reviews about the shows I covered, thinking that I’ll just be repeating what I wrote in episode posts. Then, I’ll feel bad about writing about series I didn’t cover, since I tend to have less to say about them.

I hope someone will listen

Dive into collaborations

I’ve been seeing more collaboration posts going around, and I’ve enjoyed reading many of them. I’ve always tended to avoid them because of an unspoken rule I have on the site to keep myself from copying concepts or content from other bloggers (and because my ideas tend to be rubbish). But collaboration is different and interesting, and I want to contribute if I can. Hopefully, I haven’t blocked myself off too much from others, so we’ll see what I can get done.

Juliet is surrounded

Write fewer posts

I don’t really have high hopes for this one, since I basically say this every year. Daily blog posts have always been a bit of a self-imposed goal for me, but I’ve always wanted to give myself more of a break if I could. I don’t know what form this will take, since I’ve been thinking on it for multiple years at this point. Maybe I can make myself skip the odd day every now and then.

Oops

Try to write longer posts

I’ve been taking a look at yearly stats for my blog, and I noticed that my average words per post in 2013 was 137 words per post. Since then, the average word count has gradually increased each year, reaching 353 words per posts in 2018. I’m a concise person by nature, but I also think that it helps to put more effort into explaining myself and how I reach my opinions. So, my goal is to keep the trend going, with the hope that I become easier to understand with it.

Blogging Principles: Being specific

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I haven’t written one of these in a while. If I was being smarter, I’d wait until a Beatless recap episode before publishing this post, but I can’t help myself.

Previously, I talked about the format of a blog post, so I want to talk a bit about my approach to content. When I’m writing any post, there’s one particular thought that I’m always keeping in the back of my mind: Be specific. Admittedly, I’m still working on improving at this, but it’s one of my bigger writing goals.

So, what do I mean when I say this? Put simply, it’s just a matter of asking myself why I think the way I do. I want to avoid becoming someone who always expresses vague feelings or thoughts. I’m the type of person who likes to trace the logic behind anything, so I endeavor to provide as much detail as possible.

One thing that I hear often in discussion is “it’s just my opinion”. It’s something that I hate to hear and I think it’s related to this topic. Of course, people are absolutely entitled to their own opinions. But there has to be a reason that you’ve come to that particular conclusion, and saying “it’s just my opinion” has completely shut down the discussion. I don’t care if you have an interesting opinion. I care if you have a good reason for your interesting opinion.

For example, it’s just my opinion that mecha shows are really interesting. For the most part, I hold this opinion because I like watching robot battles. If I were to go deeper, I would probably say that it has to do with my early exposure to shows like Gundam. The fact that I watched a lot of Power Rangers as a kid is probably also a large contributing factor. I’m not saying that you should be prepared to give this kind of analysis for any random opinion that you have. These are just the kinds of things I want to think about.

The end result is that most of my episode posts are just a list of points. My approach is to come up with a list of things I liked and disliked in an episode, so I can try to go through why I felt that way. It also gives me a convenient list of reasons why I might like or dislike a show overall.

In the interest of full disclosure, I also want to point out that I find this approach frightening. From what I’ve seen, it’s difficult to attack a broad opinion such as “I like this show”. The more specific a claim gets, the more refutable it becomes. If I say that Steins;Gate is the most scientifically accurate time travel series in existence, I don’t think it would be too hard to come up with a contrary argument.

But I’m honestly fine with this. I want my opinions to be founded on good reasons. If you present an argument that I think is reasonable, I will change my mind. I really hope that I’ve done a good job of expressing this mentality in my comment responses. Our opinions are our own, but changing them doesn’t mean that we lose something.

So, that’s my spiel. Let me know what you think. Or you know…change my mind.

Blogging Principles: Picking and Choosing Blog Post Formats

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I’m going to start this post off with a disclaimer. My goal with this post is not to give some special insight into how you should write posts. I don’t have that kind of expertise. I’m just putting my thoughts on blog post formats out there. I hope it’s helpful, but I’m also interested in how others approach this concept (to see what I could learn from it).

The Summary Post

When I was starting out, my style of posting was pretty simple. My entire post was devoted to talking about what actually happened in the episode. If I was feeling adventurous, I’d add the odd comment or quip. It’s a pretty easy way to start out if you don’t know what to write.

I think this style of post gets its fair share of criticism. Admittedly, it’s probably well-deserved. I’m very aware that it’s a pretty low amount of effort. I certainly made things worse by posting all of my summaries as large blocks of text. But even though I’d never go back to writing posts like these, I would argue that they still have their place.

I’ve always found that I tend to read Wikipedia summaries very often when I watch Western shows. Why only when I watch Western shows? It’s just because anime episode summaries tend to be less available. I do this because I want to see how someone else interpreted the episode I just watched. Which parts did they think were important? Was there an obvious big picture piece that I missed? I’d say summary posts serve a similar role.

The “Analysis” Post

This style is probably my least favorite of the post formats that I’ve used, even if it’s the one I used for the longest time. It was kind of a natural progression from my previous style. At a certain point, I decided that the reader probably doesn’t need to be told what happened in the episode. I personally tend to avoid reading blog posts until after I’ve seen an episode, so it seemed like a reasonable conclusion. So, I just cut the summary from my post.

I think this change had the immediate upside of forcing me to think more about what I’d watched, rather than blindly repeating the content of the episode. It was a very slow process, but I believe that I came out of it with a better understanding of where my interests lie. I can better speak to what I actually like in a show.

The reason I hated this format was that I didn’t really like what it became. As I wrote more posts, I started giving myself easy milestones to complete the post. For example, there was a long stretch of time during which I would declare a post to be finished if I managed to go over 150 or 200 words. The posts started to feel more formulaic and probably ended up being too concise to really say much.

The Reaction Post

For many of you, this style of posting may be the most familiar one. Admittedly, it’s probably my favorite. After watching a particularly rough first episode, I realized that I had way more things to say than I normally would. More importantly, I realized that these comments were largely in reaction to very specific scenes. Rather than describing the scene, I thought it might be easier just to post a picture of the scene and make the comment directly below it. As such, my posts became a series of images followed by reactions to said images.

The reason I liked this post format was because I felt like it played to my strengths. I feel much more comfortable reacting to specific points than putting together some kind of analysis. The images in these posts acts as a reference point for a particular point in the series, allowing me to talk about it specifically.

Moving Forward

If I had to sum everything up in an overarching lesson, it would be that I aim to experiment and try new methods. Recently, I’ve attempted to trim my posts down to avoid an excessive wall of images. I noticed that I had a tendency to “fill space” in my reaction posts with one-liners in some series while others would have full paragraphs for a single image. I’m now trying to force myself to come up with a decent paragraph for every series (at the very least). One day, I may move away from only using screenshots in my posts.

So, I’ll end on this: why do you prefer the style you use today for your blog posts? Is there a reason for your preference? The answer to that second question doesn’t have to be “yes”. It’s just something I like to ponder myself.

Blogging Principles: Motivation

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Since there’s no Re:Creators or Kakegurui this week, this post is going to be a bit of an experiment. I’ve been wanting to talk a bit about my own blogging principles and how I approach blogging in general. I do this mostly because I don’t think I have the credentials to give true advice, but I wonder if talking about my thought processes might be helpful.

To start things off, I want to talk a bit about motivation. I’ve been writing posts on this blog for quite some time now and I often ask myself how I’ve managed to keep it up so long. Of course, I’ve been interest in anime for a long time now, but I want to go a bit further than that.

To help out, I want to also talk about a hobby of mine, solving Rubik’s Cubes. Speedsolving, as it’s called, is something I picked up in high school, and it’s one of those things I claim as a talent. On the other hand, writing is an area in which I’ve notoriously performed poorly. So why is it that I haven’t done more than a handful of Rubik’s Cube solves in the past 3 years, but I can continue to write blog posts every day?

My answer goes back to my original motivations for starting this blog. I started my blog for two reasons: I wanted to start a website and I wanted to improve my writing. The second piece is the important bit. As long as I feel like I’m continuing to improve and learn, I will continue to keep this blog alive.

If my motivation was to create a popular website or one that made me money, I’m sure I would have quit by now. My stats aren’t exactly impressive. This is why I make the comparison to speedsolving. These stats are similar to my solve times in that I’ve reached many points in my blogging timeline when my stats have plateaued like my solve times. If I treated blogging like speedsolving, I would have have stopped for the same reason at those points.

I think the greatest reinforcement I’ve felt so far was in a recent encounter with my family. I was asked to write a tribute to my mother and how she affected my life, and my parents told me that my writing had greatly improved. Sure, this doesn’t seem like much, but my parents berated me constantly about my writing skills when I was growing up. So to me, this change felt like acknowledgement that I had actually accomplished something. That experience made me feel like this blog was worthwhile.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got on this. As my final point, I want to say that I still feel like I’ve got a lot more to go. I’ve been trying to engage with the blogging community more in recent years because I want to learn from all of the other styles out there. Anyway, let me know what you think of this post and maybe I’ll think of more stuff for the future.