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[ the editorials ]

Notes from the coffee mill...

July 2000

Summer is now well and truly upon us; hope everyone's having fun with the wonderful summer weather (at least it's quite nice here...). This month's editorial is going to be a bit more of a "letter from the web-master" as well as a mini-commentary on newsgroups.

For those of you who follow the "What's New" section of the site, things have really changed since the beginning of the year; at least internally. Who ever thought that I'd be in charge of the web-site rather than letting Akio continue to run the site?! Even so, things are mostly falling into place, and once I get a new HTML book (the one I used to use seems to have sprouted legs and crawled away; book worms??), I'll start looking towards adding some more areas to the site. However, until that time, I'm going to have to look towards to backtracking and recreating some of the things that Akio had created beforehand.

From the contest entries, the most common comment was that requesting some form of image gallery on the Cafe. Those of you who have ever hosted a site on your own will realise that image galleries take up a lot of space. Currently, the Anime Cafe encompasses almost 25 MB of space so adding huge amounts of images would require a sizeable increase in storage space and could become a financial strain as well. While we do plan to put up some images for each series, it takes about 30 mins to 1 hour to do the screen captures and resizing for each episode. Add that to each of the different episodes that get reviewed, and you can get a good idea of just how much time we're talking about here. Time I prefer spending watching anime and writing reviews.

The site recently was approached about being placed on the Master Screener List for one of the major production companies. However, after some thought, we've decided against accepting the offer. Are we crazy? Perhaps, especially considering that we would have been able to obtain anime for free, and possibly in a very timely manner for new releases. However, the catch to being put on the list was simply this, to put a visual link on our home page to the distributor's New Releases site. Not a bad catch, except that the link gave me a headache personally and of course, there's the original concept to this site; no ads or banners. That, plus the fact the much of what we review here is obtained directly from Japan, so we really don't purchase much from (that) company per se. Unfortunately, it also means that I can't judge the quality of translations or dubs coming from them either. Mind you, it would be nice if I could actually keep up with the rate at which we acquired anime (yeah right).

Lastly, the one aspect which brings me to the actual editorial aspect of this month's (bi-monthly?) editorial; newsgroups. Every now and again here at the Anime Cafe, we get the odd question about an anime title or a "please identify" for an anime series. Likewise, we occasionally get mail about new series which are up and coming to the small screen, and people want to know anything from Parental Guidance ratings right up to commercial product availability. Add to this questions of local fan clubs and retail outlets for anime, and suddenly we're supposed to be North America wide specialists on the anime scene. (I can probably answer those questions for either Calgary or Kyoto as well as partially for Vancouver though...). So how do we actually go about answering all of these questions? Well, obviously sometimes we can't, we aren't know-it-alls although we do try hard to find the information from the available sites out there. But that's a lot of surfing and hunting as well. Literally, what we do here at the Cafe to answer these questions is what anyone would have to do to find the answers on their own; hit the search engines, be it Yahoo, Alta Vista, or what have you, or we hit the Anime search engines like the Turnpike. Rarely, have I had to hit the Japanese search engines and go hunting through there for the answers (it has happened though).

So, how does one go about finding information on one's own rather than sending a million e-mails to various sites in the hopes that they answer? What if one can't read kanji to get information directly from the Japanese sites? Where can otaku and newbies alike go for full information about various anime titles? Is there any one place out there which has all the information or at least the beginnings of it? Well, sort of.

If you're on a BBS service rather than an ISP (ex. AOL / CIS), then you have access to the various forums on the BBS. This has some definite advantages in that the forums tend to be a lot better behaved and more genteel by virtue of being moderated by the local SYSOPs. For parents, this is probably the prefered route for access for kids as the language in newsgroups can get rather coarse; you'd think no one had thought to teach or learn cyber manners. (ed. note. I'm not suggesting people sign up for BBS services solely to access a forum; it's not worth quite that in my opinion, but the difference in language usage is definitely there. It's a viable option for those already using such services but who haven't actually taken advantage of the different forums. Just be aware of any financial commitments you might be making).

If however, you're on an ISP, then it's time to wander into the murky realm of the newsgroups. Here you have the wonders of having lots of anime lovers all together with the pains of various non-anime nomads, a lot less monitoring for language and potentially lots of flames. What's a person to do? If you're only lurking, and have a good level of tolerance, it's actually not all bad, and the information that can be gathered is immense; where else can you hear rumours about the new Aa! Megami-sama! movie or other interesting rumours? It certainly beats having to fish out all the primary sources on one's own since that's not always possible at least not if you also want to maintain a life. On the other hand, any information garnered from a newsgroup really does need to be verified or otherwise taken with a grain (or truckload) of salt. The other thing about newsgroups is that, as with any case where you have a large group of people gathered, there will be personality conflicts and clashes; it's always a good idea to brush up on 'netiquette as well as newsgroup etiquette and get a listing of the different abbreviations which are commonly used. Also, it definitely helps to be polite and watch your manners until you get a feel for the area. Jumping in and acting like a big hotshot is bound to bring several unpleasant mails and posts your way; either that or result in being completely and utterly ignored. The big plus though is the ability to ask questions about just about any anime and having someone out there who has probably heard something about it. If not, then the group collective is likely to be able to point you in some direction. There are many more heads out there who have been into anime for long, long periods of time.

Personally, due to problems with a crashing computer and other joys of instability on the cyber front, I've been a bit slow in joining newsgroups. No real surprise either since certain groups move so quickly it's all you can do to keep on top of all the messages being posted. (You try downloading 17 000 messages only to have your system completely freeze and have to go through the whole thing again. How many messages do I have to read and re-read?!?)

Perhaps the biggest headache I've noticed since beginning my lurk, is the tendency for religious pontification on the sites. How many times are people going to bash anime watchers for "wasting their time watching cartoons and kiddy shows"?? Hopefully this isn't as common as it has been in my early days on the group. However, if it comes up on a monthly basis, that can get rather tiresome which undoubtedly explains why some people start flaming each other in these instances. Afterall, people in an anime forum presumably are there because they enjoy the medium and can identify with the material. They aren't there to point fingers or have them pointed at them while having someone say "Ha ha you watch cartoons?!

However, news of new releases and discussions of certain anime as well as getting smaller plot points explained can be great. It can also provide a nice place to discuss favourite anime episodes or swap ideas on good anime to watch. Depending on one's personal interests, there are several newsgroups to choose from. Personally I've been lurking only and holding off on posting until I get a better feel for the various areas I've subscribed to. However, it's interesting to see that industry representatives do pop in every now and again as well, so they are paying attention to the places. My one message to those who decide to pop in and see what the places are all about, please remember your manners. Introduce yourself as a newbie to the group if you're unsure about how to act; people do make some allowances for ignorance, although that generally won't extend to stupidity, and above all be polite.

ja ne,

Jane Nagatomi, 2000.07.05

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Page last modified 2000.07.05