Meditating on the Use of Words from an Anime Blogger’s Perspective

The largest cliche in the online writing world deals with writers writing to other writers. If you browse self-publishing websites, many offer tips and tricks (some useful, some snake-oil) and write books targeting other self-published writers. I’m going to add my hat to the pile. Only this time, let’s discuss the use of words and lingo from the anime blogger’s perspective. If you are looking for goodies about a particular anime or Japanese culture, well, I have to take a break from research and watching anime every once in awhile.

Words are cool. Okay, they are more than cool. They are miraculous. Think  about what a word can do. When you read a name like Kirito, it can conjure a host of questions and mental images: what’s a Kirito? Hey isn’t that the Sword Art Online guy? Fans of the show immediately imagine what he looks like. The single word conjures emotions and reactions: love, hate, indifference, eye rolls, groans, and smiles.  Words connect the thoughts of the writer with you, the reader.

Words tug at your memories and your mental scaffold. Each of us carries a mental framework of experiences, knowledge, and emotions woven into a lattice. From that lattice words and images hang, organized in a way unique to you. No one else has the same lattice. However, words allow my lattice to connect to yours, however incomplete the connection may be.

If you think about it, it is amazing we understand each other at all. Words are utterances and drawings that connect different experiences of reality. Sure, we share some similarities, but some differences in experience are vast. Females have a different set of experiences than males, for example. Society socializes the genders differently, yet words still allow for connections. Anime fans, as another example, have a far different understanding compared to those who do not watch anime.

The Problem with Words

Speaking of overused words…

I’m sure you’ve struggled to express your excitement at one point or another. Awesome just didn’t seem to fit. The word excited felt too tame. You reached for a word to connect your feeling of elation with another person’s experience of the same. You’ve touched on a problem with words: over-use.

Over-used words lose their impact and their meaning, and words without meaning are so much air. Let’s take the word awesome. You see it used to describe anime and manga and just about everything that is merely fair nowadays. The word used to mean “creating an overwhelming feeling of awe”. It was used in reference to God and events that would drive a person to their knees with the sheer emotion of the experience. Now it is used to describe shirts and socks.

Speaking of that, let me show my Christian side for a little bit. I dislike using the words God and Jesus. Christians toss the words around too much nowadays. In many regards, they have lost their impact. The name of Jesus used to have power. It used to be awe-inspiring (see what I mean about overuse?) Now it is an everyday word. This should not be so. Such words as God, Jesus, and love should be used rarely and with purpose. We need to protect their meanings and their sacredness. Love is, perhaps, the most overused word of all when you think of it.

In the Hebrew Bible, writers avoided the name of God. In a similar way, the phrase “I am” resonates with power because it appears infrequently. For words to recover their impact, they need to fall out of regular use for a time. Sacred words remain sacred because they are used in limited context. This teaches the value of limiting some words to certain contexts.

Okay, let’s return to anime blogging. One of the most common words I’ve seen in anime blogging, and Internet writing in general, is the word fuck. As a writer, I hate that word (and I use the word hate intentionally–it is beyond mere dislike). I don’t hate it for its vulgarness; although, that doesn’t help the word’s status. I hate the word because it has no real meaning. You find it being used as an interjection, adverb, verb, noun, adjective, article, and every other part of speech possible. Fuck is used so often it no longer shocks most Internet readers. If anything, it reveals poor writing. Good writing will make the reader feel angry through good argument and illustration. Fuck does neither of these. The word is lazy. Expletives tend to be, but if carefully used, they can enhance good writing and pull the right emotion at the right time. But in order to work, they must be rare. Fuck is just too tired, too meaningless, to do this anymore. Well, other than make me feel disdain or disappointment.

The Foundation of Good Writing

Good writing requires a foundation in good word selection. I admit to being a poor wordsmith. I reach for the easiest, most common words here on JP. So excuse my hypocrisy for this section. Good-word selection determines how we connect with readers as bloggers. Yet, we have to mine deep word veins to find fresh words, words that retain their meaning. Words like awesome ramp up the rhetoric to the point where you can’t find a good word to capture what you want. You must reach for words like sublime or majestic, words meant for speaking about the sacred rather than the mundane.

Illustrations, metaphors, and similes still work for us, luckily. At least, as long as we stay away from cliches. As anime bloggers, we have the whole of anime to draw from. We can pull characters from different stories to illustrate our points. It can be as effective as Kirito’s double wield technique in the first part of SAO, or they can fall as flat as Rukia’ chest jokes in Bleach. We have to be careful. Not every reader may know our obscure references, but these help us avoid the use of tired words and hyperbole.

Horo Musuko Yuki Wandering son transwoman

Some may think: what does all of this word philosophy have to do with blogging? I just want to review anime! This isn’t a term paper or anything. This is the Internet! But as a blogger, you want people to read. To attract readers, you need to write well. Good writing is clear, concise, engaging, and choosy with words. Good writing draws readers over time. Not to mention it also makes you stand out from all the blogs out there that rely on the squishy word fuck for feeling.

I know this is a rehash post. I’ve written about these topics across various articles. But, as a writer, words matter to me. It troubles me how Christians will chant  Jesus. It grates on me as much as the word fuck because it is disrespectful. It undermines the name’s importance and power. Yes, I know it is intended as the opposite, but the fact many Christians feel multiple utterances are needed shows how much its power has waned. Likewise, words such as awesome have lost their impact.  New words like waifu retain their freshness, but over-use will make them expire quickly.

Words reflect thoughts. Writing provides insight into how a mind works, messy or ordered, precise or mushy. To end this rant (and rant it is): be careful of how you use words.

2 Steps for Better Anime Blogging

Nagaski c.1868

You, the anime community, are great. I’ve seen a lot of positive things in my time with you, and its time we extend some of these positive aspects to other parts of the Internet. Lately, the Internet suffers from vitriol and low-leveling writing: crudeness, profanity, and bad writing. Yet, most of the anime blogging community I’ve seen is helpful and avoids excessive crudeness. The writing quality is decent too. Let’s be clear. I’m not saying other sections of the Internet blog world are worse than the anime community. Nor am I saying the anime community doesn’t have problems. However, much of what we see online–misinformation, political bias, excessive crudeness, personal attacks, slander, and other problems–can be reduced if all of us work at it.

I’ve written against excessive profanity and other writing issues in various articles. I won’t beat that drum again. Other than to tell you to stop it! It really does make you look foolish. Ehem. Anyway, there are two specific issues affecting blogging communities. I’ll address both of them and offer simple solutions to fix them.

Monetizing Blogs with Advertisements Hurts Blogging

Who doesn’t want to make a living with their blog? I tried using advertisements here on JP to make a buck or two. However, a few years ago I realized I was a hypocrite. I hate advertising. I don’t merely find it annoying or dislike it. I passionately hate the level of advertising found across the Internet. Yet I was also contributing to the problem. So I took down all the advertisements.

After I dropped the ads, I saw my traffic increase. I’m not sure if removing ads helped that, but I like to think so. I will promote my books time to time, but I try to keep my book promotions to a minimum. I dislike seeing authors over-peddle. However, not all advertising is bad. Some is needed, but it should be kept to a minimum.  Ironically, if advertisers would reduce the number of ads by, say, 98% they would likely see more people paying attention to them. Rarity creates interest. When a room of people are talking, no one can hear what is being said.

In any case, the level of advertisements used on the Internet chokes access. Ad blockers are required to be able to load many websites. Not to mention it is very difficult to blog for a living. The best way to do that is to write quality books (not that I claim my books are quality) and freelance for magazines. A blog is a way to reach out to people who may find your content interesting or useful. And it all comes down to being helpful to your readers. Blogs that splash advertisements everywhere do not have the reader in mind. They don’t try to give to the reader; they want to take from the reader.  These blogs and websites are self-serving rather than other-serving.

So the first step of our blog movement: reduce advertising. Remove most ads from your blog and kill all those terrible pop-ups, including those that ask the visitor to follow your blog. If they want to follow you, they will. Place the RSS feed or email someplace visible but out of the way of your articles. I refuse to follow blogs that beg me to follow them. But if I like a blog, I will hunt the sidebar for a subscription box.

Also be sure to install adblockers on your browsers. Maybe if people stop seeing pennies come from ads, more will take them down. I don’t know about you, but I long for the day when advertisements are rare but useful.

Return the Social to Blogging

One of the biggest problems blogs face is the immigration to social platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media have stolen the conversations blogs used to enjoy. I feel like I am railing against the inevitable, but most blogs starve for comments and discussion. I’ll admit social platforms are more convenient for discussion. After all, blogs are fragmented. You can talk to many bloggers on Twitter, but you can only speak to a few (or one) on their blog. However, this is akin to having a private conversation. Social platforms are noisy places, full of asides and interruptions.  Blogs provide spaces for more specific, quieter conversations. Blogs have more in common with friends getting together at a bar than Twitter or other social platforms do. They are closer to meeting at a busy city square.

Perhaps the most important part of commenting on blogs deals with the author. Many bloggers labor in isolation. They feel as if their little blog, which sees little traffic, is lost in the void. They grow discouraged and think about quitting. Just when they are about to order the blog to commit seppuku, a comment pings. Someone has read an article and liked it! They really liked it enough to comment! Comments light a fire under bloggers. Comments encourage, even the argumentative ones.

Bloggers can also encourage each other by writing responses to posts on their own blogs. For example, you can write a response about this article and rip at me for being way off base. Article responses between bloggers help readers discover new authors. It also helps create a better community by feeling like a community. Instead of a blog floating in isolation, it responds and adapts to the conversations of its community. It joins those conversations. The anime community does a great job of this. Not to mention these response posts help you keep writing. It can be tough to come up with ideas week after week.

So the second part of our blog movement is to comment on posts and write response articles. If you like a blogger, let them know you support them. They may well return the favor! But if they don’t return the favor, don’t worry. You contributed to the health of the Internet as a whole.

Small actions add up. While these two solutions are relatively easy (outside of losing advertising income), they improve your small bit of the Internet. Taking your conversation to a blog encourages the author to keep writing. It also helps blogging feel less isolated. Remember, blogging is the original social media. And bloggers need to help the conversation by replying to comments and writing good, useful articles in the first place. Blogging can’t be self-serving. It has provide value to the reader in order to succeed.

This is where most bloggers, and websites for that matter, go wrong. They try to take from readers (usually money) instead of give. Writing is a relationship. There has to be more giving than taking for relationships to succeed. If you give quality writing and information to readers, many will give you their friendship, interest, and (sometimes) money.

Considering the Quality of Information and Blogging

Horo Musuko Yuki Wandering son transwomanThis post may be a little elitist, but not all information is equal. Much of the internet overflows with drivel written by people who are not the experts they claim to be. Like this blog! Okay, Okay. I don’t claim to be an expert. I am a librarian and a fan who enjoys ferreting out information from books, academic journals, and databases. I try to only use vetted sources. I admit I sometimes get things wrong. Sometimes my articles are not accurate.

Source accuracy matters. How do I determine the accuracy of the sources I use? Well, first I try to avoid Wikipedia. Some of my early articles used Wikipedia, but over time I learned just how inaccurate Wikipedia can be. Anyone can add or delete information. Experts may edit or write an article, but someone in high school could just as easily change the expert’s article. Antipathy toward expertise is a problem even Wikipedia’s co-founders Lawrence Sanger acknowledges (Levintin,2014).

Wikipedia is decent for a general idea about a topic as long as you keep in mind its potential to be inaccurate.  Sadly, there is no way to know if you are reading an accurate article or not.  Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, states experts should have no more respect than newcomers to Wikipedia. Often people are contrary because they consider it being fair and balanced. Contrary isn’t the same as showing both side of an argument. There are times when the opposing side has no place being mentioned because they lack evidence.

However, not all information is valid, contrary or not. Fair and balanced information tries to reveal all aspects surrounding a topic. It doesn’t matter if that information is contrary or agree with established knowledge. But why would someone be inaccurate with an educational article?

Causes of Information Inaccuracy

Three issues cause inaccuracy (Levintin, 2014).

  1. bias
  2. desire to maintain status quo
  3. preselection effect

Bias deals with personal preferences and limits of knowledge. For example, because I study Japanese culture, I tend to also understand Chinese culture through its relationship with Japanese culture. That creates blind spots and misunderstandings with how I understand China.

The desire to maintain status quo blinds people to information that undermine their expertise or their vested interests. You can see this in business. A business may resist an idea that may benefit it but at the cost of the corporate culture.

The preselection effect deals with who writes information. Often, those who are most qualified to write an article are unable to do so.

You can find many excellent public domain photos at NY Public Library and other online libraries

You can find many excellent public domain photos at NY Public Library and other online libraries.

Why does this matter for an anime blogger? Why should we care? Well, this matters to everyone who seeks information. Misinformation is a serious problem on the Internet. Don’t misunderstand, it is great that anyone can publish online. But it leaves the seeker solely responsible for finding accurate information. Before the internet, responsibility for accuracy fell on the author more than readers. Now, readers must be careful. As bloggers, we cannot accurately express ourselves, educate our readers, or make proper decisions without good information. We need to be skeptical toward all information, including those found in vetted sources like academic journals. If you are writing a blog post, you want the post to be as accurate as possible. You want it to represent you.

There are several questions to ask when looking at an information source:

  1. What is the goal of the author?
  2. What bias do I see?
  3. What information is missing?
  4. Are sources cited?
  5. Are sources high quality?

The  goals and bias of the author impacts information. That is why I attempt to point out my bias and goals in my articles. It is impossible to include all information in a single piece. The act of writing requires selection and omission. After all, you can only write what you understand. The goal of the author and her views determine what information is present and disregarded. Sometimes, the author isn’t aware of some information. Therefore it cannot be included. While this seems obvious, this matters. We don’t know what we don’t know, and this causes us to miss vital information.

\To avoid this, collect as much information as you can about a topic, including indirect information. For example, when I work on a folklore project, I pull documents loosely related to my chosen topic. When I researched for Come and Sleep, I pulled articles about European foxes, Chinese foxes, and Native American foxes to shed more light on kitsune. Most of this information wasn’t helpful, but I found links and a few bits that the articles focused on kitsune failed to mention.

It is important to cite your sources for readers to review. It helps readers and fellow bloggers see what could be missing. It also helps them continue with their own research. While few will do this, those that do will appreciate your consideration. Citations do not protect you from plagiarism, but they do lend weight to your work. However, they can also mislead readers if your information is inaccurate or incomplete. Citations lead them to believe the information is complete. Again, we don’t know what we don’t know.

As a librarian, I am concerned with connecting people with accurate information. But the act of writing automatically creates the issues I’ve discussed. We understand information through our individual lenses. This shapes information into something usable. However, we need to remain cautious about problems with bias, omission, and blatant misinformation.

What is the take away? Don’t rely solely on Wikipedia. Its information is suspect. Use your own judgment on sources found in vetted databases and online. The extra effort helps you craft higher quality blog posts and helps expand your understanding on anime, manga, and Japanese culture.

References

Levitin, D. (2014) The Organized Mind, New York: Penguin Group.

Anime Blogging Tools

Blogging requires many different considerations. First, you have to keep track of what is going on in the communities you are a part of. You have to be careful of copyright issues. This is particularly problematic for images since it is very easy to just do a fast image search, right click, and snatch the image.  One top of that, it is good practice to cite your blog post’s sources. Citations are tedious and annoying, but they lend credibility to your writing.

Anyway, we are in luck! There are many tools floating around that help you with these problems. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Tracking Anime Articles

Nagaski c.1868

Nagaski c.1868 – Journals were the original blog.

How many anime blogs do you read? It is impossible to keep track of everything in the anime and manga blogspheres. There is just too much stuff! That, and let’s be honest, most of the articles floating around are poorly written and trite. The web is flooded with half-baked opinions. Including mine! The best source for ideas is reading what other people are writing about. So what is a blogger to do?

Enter two websites:  AnimeNano and AnimeShinbun.

Anime Nano

Anime Nano is an RSS based feed site. Anime bloggers submit their RSS feeds, and articles are automatically added to the post lists. Registration is free. An account lets you filter the incoming feeds to the blogs that interest you the most. I have Firefox display the main RSS feed from the website in a sidebar. This lets me constantly see what new topics and posts are trending.

Anime Nano isn’t moderated. However, I haven’t seen advertising spam yet. This also means writing quality varies widely.

AnimeShinbun

This is probably one of the best anime blogging feed sites around. The site is community moderated with strict posting rules.  That means members of the community vote to approve links you submit before they appear on the main feeds. This tends to weed out poor writing, duplicate posts, and other problems blog feeds have. AnimeShinbun has temperature ratings that show how popular a particular article is.

AnimeShinbun keeps you up to date with what the anime community finds interesting each day.  There is a preponderance of reviews, but that does reflect what most anime bloggers write. It also can help your blog get noticed. Just don’t spam your links. This will hurt your reputation.

Copyright Tools

Copyrights are thorny. Images are particularly problematic since most websites do not source their images. Yeah, JP is also bad about that.  As I already mentioned (and I will link the copyright article again in case you missed it), I wrote a general summary of US copyright law that bloggers should understand. However, there is another way to avoid copyright hassles: public domain images.

Flickr Commons

Most images on Flickr belong to their owner or are released under Creative Commons. It is best to just assume they below to the person who made the picture. However, Flickr has a commons area that hosts a wealth of public domain and copyright free images.  Institutions involved in the Commons project include the National Library of Medicine,  The British Library, and other organizations. There are some cool images to be found here.

However, some of these images may not actually be public domain. Read what Flickr has to say about this (see Source):

Photographs can be difficult to analyze under copyright law, not only because laws around the world differ with respect to scope and duration of protection, but because the photographs themselves often lack credit lines, dates and other identifying information. Libraries, museums and other cultural institutions have a great deal of experience with photographs because they frequently collect, preserve, document and study them in accordance with their nonprofit missions. However, in many instances, a cultural institution will not be the rights holder under copyright law. Therefore, it can neither grant permission to others who wish to use a photograph nor provide a guarantee that the photograph is in the public domain.

So in other words, it is still up to you to determine if the image is actually free of copyrights. However, this tool does increase the likelihood of the image being copyright free. Yep, the images I used in this article are all from the service or WikiMedia Commons.

WikiMedia Commons

This website provides public domain and freely licensed educational media. Use of the images varies based on the original author’s criteria. As WikiMedia states:

Everyone is allowed to copy, use and modify any files here freely as long as they follow the terms specified by the author; this often means crediting the source and author(s) appropriately and releasing copies/improvements under the same freedom to others.

Like Flickr Commons, images posted on WikiMedia Commons may actually have copyrights.  WikiMedia Commons also has audio, videos, and other goodies that are useful for bloggers.

New York Public Library Digital Collection

The New York Public Library has a vast collection of images and public domain images. It has a nice collection of Japanese postcards from the late 1800s and woodblock prints from the Edo period.

Citation Machine

It is a good idea to cite your sources. As I mentioned, citations make your writing more professional and lends it more authority.  Citations are a headache though. They are tedious. Luckily, this being the web rather than an academic paper, few people will call you out on a citation if you forget a period. That said, it is a good habit to get it as close to being a proper citation as you can get.

Citation Machine offers some help. The web tool lets you set up citations in APA, MLA, Chicago and Turabian. Select the citation you want and then you can search WorldCat for the book you want to cite. The tool also lets you select magazines and other types of information.  Fill out the form with the article or book’s information and you are golden! The help links will tell you what each field expects and where to find the information. It is pretty sweet.

Writing Tools

Teaching Songs by Kusakabe Kimbei c. 1890

Teaching Songs by Kusakabe Kimbei c. 1890

Sometimes our brains fly ahead of our fingers.  Blog posts sometimes look like a book going through a blender. Nothing beats good old fashioned hand editing and proofreading, but sometimes we need a little help. English grammar is a jungle of rules and contradictions. To use the Oxford comma or not to use the Oxford comma? That is the question.

What is an Oxford comma anyway? (It is the comma used in a series of words that need a conjunction:  apples, oranges, and neko! The red comma is the Oxford comma.)

Well, the Web comes to the rescue. Well, not to the rescue, but it does offer some help. Automated tools, as any user of Microsoft Word knows,  are not perfect.

PaperRater

PaperRater offers a free grammar and spell check tool that also offers word suggestions. The tool makes suggestions within your text, and also rates your use of vocabulary. Like all automatic rating software, you shouldn’t put too much weight to this evaluation. PaperRater is designed for, well, papers. It lets you select your target education level and the type of paper. It also can check your citations. It is a pretty nifty tool. If you have doubts on your grammar and proofreading skills, this tool may help. There is a paid version that gets rid of the website’s advertising and lets you submit longer papers. It isn’t necessary for bloggers like us.

Hemingway App

Hemingway App is a nifty application that checks your writing’s readability. It looks for sentence complexity and the use of passive voice. Passive voice, for those of you who are rusty on grammar, is a static sentence structure. It states that sometime is rather than show that something acting. Words like is, had, have, and -ing verbs are passive.

There is a paid desktop version of the app. The free version has some limitations, but it is still helpful in pointing out your bad habits. The application gives you a readability score.  The app highlights difficult sentences, adverbs, and passive voice using a color key.

The application, in case you are wondering, is named after Ernest Hemingway. The American author is known for his short sentences and clear writing style. Clarity is important in blogging. JP sometimes gets muddled. This is especially true when we lapse into academic speak.

So there you have it! A collection of tools that should be useful for your blog writing. Heck, many of these tools are useful for essay writing. It is important for all of us to take the time to improve the quality of the Web. The web is full of trash writing, spam, and nonsense. Clean up starts with each of us.  Writing clearly, intelligently, and with good, researched information improves the quality of the Web.  At the least, your blog will be an oasis for web surfers riding the flood of junk information.

Andrew’s Guide to Blogging–How to Choose a Blogging Platform

In the first installment of my guide to blogging, I touched on how to choose a premise for your blog. Perhaps you already had some idea of what you wanted to do, or perhaps you wanted to blog but had no idea what to blog about. Either way, hopefully my post was a bit helpful.

This week, I’m touching on the next step in the process: choosing a blogging platform.  This can be a little overwhelming, since there are a variety of options, some that cost money and some that don’t. I aim not to make an exhaustive list of all the options–simply put, I don’t know them all–but more to illustrate my own experiences with different platforms and to point out what I think is best depending on what you want out of a blog.

Let’s get the two easiest and most user friendly platforms out of the way first. These are Blogger (Blogspot when I used it, although I think it goes by both names) and WordPress.com. Both services have free options, and both are pretty intuitive to start for the most part. You can sign up and be blogging on the same day with very little set up time.

Now, I haven’t used Blogger in a long time, so it has probably changed in the mean time, but I found it less user friendly than WordPress.com. There are more options for customization if you know how to do HTML (again, this was when I was using it more than five years ago, so it has probably changed since then,) but overall the set up is far clunkier and harder to use than WordPress.com. There also seems to be less of a blogging community on Blogger. While it is a valid option, most bloggers starting out seem to prefer WordPress.com.

There are a lot of pros to starting a WordPress.com blog. The Dashboard is well organized and easy to navigate. You can choose from a variety of pre-built themes that have a lot of easy customization options built-in, allowing you to do a lot with little knowledge of coding.

In addition, there is a very large blogging community associated with WordPress.com. It’s easy to follow blogs from WordPress, and I noticed that when I ran WordPress.com blogs I got far more comments and subscribers than when I was on Blogger or even now that I self-host. Also, WordPress.com has a feature called “Freshly Pressed” where WordPress picks its top blogs and posts them prominently on the site. Getting a post freshly pressed leads to a huge spike in views and subscriptions, not to mention a nice ego boost from the surge in attention.

WordPress.com has a free, basic package that puts limits on amount of images you can post (I believe the limit is 3 gigabytes, which would take awhile to eat up.) There are paid options that have more features, but they are pretty pricey. WordPress.com has domain registration features as well. I believe it is $25 a year to register a domain with WordPress.com, including privacy protections (which you definitely want to get for the extra five or ten bucks.)

Registering a domain means you can get a customized domain that no one else can copy. The standard WordPress.com domain reads “fillinyourdomainhere.wordpress.com,” whereas a registered domain drops the “.wordpress.com” part. Some people feel that having their own domain registered makes a blog more legitimate, but if you don’t care about that, don’t worry about registering your domain. Overall, for a basic blog that isn’t really image heavy, a free WordPress.com blog would fit your needs perfectly.

If, however, you want a more elaborate blog without the limitations of a free WordPress.com blog or the expense of the upgraded options WordPress offers, self-hosting might be the route for you. All self-hosting means is that you own the domain and pay for server space on a hosting company’s servers.

The company I host through–Bluehost–allows for unlimited media and images, and will let me attach more than one domain to my hosting account (I only have one–I don’t recommend trying to run more than one blog at a time because you spread yourself too thin.) Hosting costs will vary depending upon your needs, and whether or not the hosting company is running any promotions at the time. On average, the basic hosting package through Bluehost is going to run about $120 a year, with an additional $25 or so for the domain registration fees for each domain you host (you have to register a domain if you self host, and again you want the privacy protection.)

Now, self-hosting has its downsides and upsides. The downsides are the costs, and the fact that it takes more technical knowhow to run a self-hosted blog. I recommend running WordPress.org for your blog–it gives you the same easy-to-use features as WordPress.com, especially if you use the Jetpack plug-in, which links your WordPress.org and WordPress.com accounts and lets you basically run your self-hosted blog like a free WordPress.com site.

Also, with WordPress.org you get access to similar templates as you would with a free WordPress blog. If you know coding, you can do more modifications of these templates than you could on a free site. There are good guides online to getting your self-hosted site up and running, and if you do it right you shouldn’t have to do much more than basic maintenance here and there. I don’t personally know much about coding or really anything computer related, but I got OddlyHistorical up and running with few problems, and it has needed very little maintenance in the year and a half it has been live. It’s definitely doable–it just takes more patience to operate, but the flexibility you get from self-hosting is well worth the effort. I recommend it if you’re serious about blogging and want to build a blog that will stand the test of time.

There you have it. A very short guide to choosing a blogging platform. To summarize, your best bet is going to be WordPress. If you want a free, easy to use platform, WordPress.com is the way to go. There are limitations, but this is a solid choice for the beginning blogger. You don’t want to spend a lot of money before you know that you like doing it.

So, if you’re new to blogging, sign up for a free WordPress.com site and start clacking away without worrying about hosting, domains, coding, and all that technical stuff. As you get into it more move toward a self-hosted blog. If need be, you can migrate a WordPress.com blog to a self-hosted blog later. It’s a hassle but doable.

I’ve glossed over a lot when it comes to considering different blogging platforms, especially when it comes to the self-hosting aspect, but this series is just meant to outline the basics. Next time we’re going to talk about how to compose a blog post, especially the importance of proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Stay tuned!

Andrew’s Guide to Blogging–How to Choose a Premise for Your Blog

Chris has touched on topics around anime blogging here before. I decided to do my own take on the subject. This will be the first in a series of posts about what I’ve learned from blogging for the last five years or so on various platforms. It will cover a range of topics, from what platforms to use to how blogs can make money to how social media and blogging can reinforce one another.

But lets start at the beginning. If you want to start a blog, you might (or might not)have some idea of your blog’s premise. Whether it be a Japanese pop culture blog, a reflective personal blog, or a blog about fly fishing, every blog has a premise, an underlying theme that the topics of individual posts revolve around. It can seem overwhelming at first to try to decide from among the many possibilities.

One good way to determine what exactly to blog about is to sit down and make a list of potential blog premises. List everything that you can think of, including things that seem off the wall. Then, reread the list and cross out the entries that your gut says just don’t feel right.

Next, take the ideas that survived the cull and write each one on the top of a piece of paper. Brainstorm potential blog post ideas for each one, noting which premise you have more enthusiasm for and that generates the most ideas. You want an idea that you like but that also has a lot of leeway in terms of subject matter. For example, Japanpowered started more as an anime review blog, and over time it began to encompass Japanese culture as a whole. The premise has held up for three years and more than three hundred posts, with many more to come.

During this process, you might find that you hit on an idea your really like, but it feels like it doesn’t have a wide enough subject matter to stand the test of time. If that’s the case, look at ways to broaden its scope. For example, my history blog, Oddly Historical, was originally intended as a blog devoted to weird science history. However, while that was a wide area, I decided that expanding my premise to include all of weird history was a better idea. This would give me more flexibility to pursue whatever my whim feels like pursuing. So far, I’ve managed to stick with the blog for a year and a half, and it’s still going strong.

Picking a good premise for a blog is important for a number of reasons. It gives your writing focus and makes it far easier to determine what you want to write about any given day. It also allows you to zoom in on a topic you enjoy, which will generate more passionate writing, which will in turn attract like-minded people to your blog.

While brief, this post will help you at least start narrowing down your ideas for a blog premise. Basically, you don’t want a premise that is too narrow, because you won’t be able to find enough subject matter to write about. You also don’t want a premise that is too broad, because your blog will meander and the abundance of choices will make it too hard to pick subjects for individual posts. Also, your audience won’t know what your blog is about, which makes it hard to gain a following. It is better for a premise to be focused, but flexible. Narrow, but broad enough that you can have some wiggle room to pursue other topics that spark your interest as you continue writing.

Next time, I will talk about different blogging platforms. Trying to decide which platform is right for you can be a bit of a pain, especially if you’re trying to decide whether or not you want to self host (I’ll explain what that means too.) Until then, take some time to think about what blogs you could see yourself writing.