One Year of International Wota

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It’s been a whole year of Intl Wota? Holy crap!

If I had to state what I’m proudest of for the past year… it would be my daughter Haruna. Far and away, nothing else even comes close. However, Intl Wota isn’t a shabby achievement either – and like Haruna, it’s an effort that requires a great deal of collaboration, and which grows in surprising and pleasing ways.

In one year, we had a little over five thousand posts covering over two hundred different sites, most all of them blogs devoted to Japanese music. During that same time, the so-called Jpop blogosphere section of the interwebs – at least, the corner that writes in English – has grown considerably as well. A quick look at the blogroll for Intl Wota shows a wide range of writing styles, subject matter, and approaches to Japanese music and idols. The attrition rate is often horrible, but the survivors have that much more reason to be proud.

Broomhead at True Life Seek gives a wonderfully succinct description of what Intl Wota has accomplished, and I don’t want to retread those points here – he said it as well as I ever could. The funny part is, Intl Wota could have never happened – it really wasn’t planned. (Neither was Haruna, but we won’t get into that here.) A quick history of Intl Wota’s roots can be found here – clearly, this was a case of trying to fix a stupid mistake on my part. But it was a little more complicated than that.

On the one hand, the feed aggregating of Feed of Pop wasn’t working out as well as it could: technical problems were popping up and I finally broke it. The Feed did well enough, but it was just a feed aggregator – it didn’t have a soul, though it did have a community. (In the Feed of Pop days, the Ame Wota Forum was the nerve center. It’s still around, but not as lively as it used to be.)

On the other hand, the Sunday Blog Roundup I was doing for American Wota – and before that, Cult of Pop – was growing longer and longer. When I first started it in July 2005, a good week would involve a dozen posts of noteworthy blog entries. By the time I stopped doing the column, I was often compiling roughly fifty different links a week, sometimes more. It was taking me hours to prepare and write, in part because it was so concentrated.

In short, both the Feed and the SBR were becoming unwieldy, though in different ways. The secret, then, wasn’t combining the two – the daily fix and wide reach of the Feed, the individual attention and commentary of the SBR. That just meant more work, and it wouldn’t have necessarily been as rewarding as Intl Wota has become.

Rather, the secret was in having the community play a role, to take over the commentary of itself. Deciding I didn’t have to do it by myself, that there were great people who would work with me for a shared goal. I would have never gone ahead with Intl Wota if I didn’t have people in place to help and provide support, both practical and emotional. Further, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that with a support system in place, Intl Wota could accomplish things that Feed of Pop or my individual blog could not.

The initial editorial line-up included CJ of Stuck in a Pagoda, pengie of unchained, Julia of Wings of My Heart, and jinryuichi of HNPH. They contributed posts, yes, but even more importantly they provided a sounding board and a necessary consensus to guide Intl Wota’s direction. They were the community, and gave a community’s perspective to how Intl Wota should be run.

And if I have any hopes for the second year of Intl Wota, the main one is this: I no longer want to be the center of attention, the main person who defines Intl Wota and what it can do. I’ve been doing a majority of the posts for the first year, which was only proper: while I told everyone else that their own blogs (and their own lives) should take precedence over Intl Wota, I couldn’t say the same to myself. And yeah, Ame Wota suffered for it, but that was a price I gladly paid. At the very least it made me cannier in how I frame my blog, as Version 3.0 shows.

However, Intl Wota’s crew has grown slowly and the presence of others has become much more pronounced in recent months. And with IW Press and the Samizdat (hopefully) happening in Year Two, different skill sets will come to play as the editorial staff becomes even more prominent.

So with that in mind, I extend special thanks not only to the original editorial staff, but also to the new editors added since the start of 2008 – Wu-san of My Pleasant Vista and Broomhead. Wu-san’s been my most visible wing man on the actual blog entries of Intl Wota, and has developed a style – and following – of his own. Broomhead, meanwhile, has become Rasputin to my Tsar Nicholas (or something equally lurid and historical). They both enhance and deepen the editorial board in surprising ways, and I’m sure will play key roles in what lies ahead.

Also thanks go to all our contributors, especially to Jim Haku of 0n Haku to Myaku – who set up and runs Intl Wota’s last.fm group – Craig currently of e-wota, Zush of Kakko-ii.com, hanachan of her spontaneous LiveJournal, and our newest addition, maiZe of fields of maiZe and berryZ.

maiZe has me particularly happy because she represents the most recent generation of bloggers who are coming into their own. The more that generation becomes involved in Intl Wota, the stronger we’ll grow. And yes, that’s a blatant plea for more folks to sign on as contributors.

Blogging is not as easy as it looks. People assume you just get a website or service and babble whatever comes to mind. But it takes time to develop the habit of blogging, to develop a specific voice that suits the medium, and to build an audience with which one builds a rapport. Going back to the attrition rate, I’d say roughly half of the blogs Intl Wota has covered are now dead or have been neglected for months. I’d like to think that Intl Wota has not only helped new blogs find an instant audience that would not have been privy to them otherwise (The Spike seems proof of that), but also given some bloggers the feedback and sense of community to keep them committed to this form. We’re not a unique community among overseas J-music fans, and we’re certainly nowhere near the largest. But we’re focused on one thing and that focus is what makes us strong.

And for that matter, writing in general isn’t as easy as it looks, either. Everybody assumes you just sit in front of a screen and tap away without a care in the world, as if ideas spring to one’s mind fully formed and already spell-checked and punctuated. But when writing is good, it’s more than just words on paper or screen – it’s a unique point of view that constantly finds unique things to say about the world. (A phrasing from Alan Moore that I borrow often.) In that regard, I hope the criticism and feedback that Intl Wota provides for its bloggers helps in finding that unique perspective, in finding out what works for a writerly voice and what doesn’t.

And I hope that the coming year of Intl Wota – with our Intl Wota Press and the Samizdat (if that takes off the ground) and Lord knows what else popping up in the months to come – will provide further challenges for those who want to take them on. We’re entering our Terrible Twos and we’ll be stumbling and fumbling along the way – but it’s going to get easier bit by bit, we’re going to cover greater ground on surer feet, and soon enough we’ll be hitting our own stride.

Just like my Haruna. But not as cute, of course. And I’m not paying for any of your educations, so don’t even think of asking.

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17 Responses to “One Year of International Wota”
  1. Radicalipton says:

    International Wota is more than simply a hub for Japanese music bloggers and idol enthusiasts. It is a portal into the future. Most publishing is going this route — purely online, mostly spontaneous, with global outreach and unlimited potential.

    That IW Press and Samizdat have been launched is indicative of the need for this level of analysis and thought-exchange regarding the amazing collision of cultures and ideas that J-pop — particularly all-female teen idol music — fosters and represents.

    International Wota is a wonderful end-result of why the Internet exists. But, as has been pointed out above, IW has a soul and a feeling of community unmatched anywhere on the Web. It is a priceless and irreplaceable venue and deserves to grow and prosper.

    Every log-in is an adventure. It’s like entering a 24/7 convention, teeming with news, opinion and cultural diversity unmatched anywhere in the world today.

    If anything, the above summary and other efforts to describe the history and impact of International Wota and its sister creations, both past and present, are vastly understated.

    International Wota’s first year has gone by, lightning-fast. The concept has given at least one washed-up, has-been journalist renewed hope in the inherent goodness in people.

    As for the line, “I no longer want to be the center of attention,” forget it. Too late for that. Embrace the legend, because it is growing every day.

    Happy birthday, International Wota.

    This is Radicalipton signing off — for now.

  2. pengie says:

    You’re the man, Ray.

  3. Garamon says:

    Happy birthday IW! <3

  4. jim says:

    I really didn’t think before that IW is only about as old as my own blog. It’s funny I put so much into it now. I still write largely to organize my own thoughts on things, but knowing that people are reading it has really given it more of a purpose. I’ve tried to keep my own style, but I wasn’t very serious about it before I moved to wordpress (which I did after pengie noticed my link to her on lj and she basically told me to), so it’s evolved with I guess, not really being solid before.

    It’s almost painful to write at first, I just enjoy it now.

  5. Chris says:

    Congratulations Ray for all you have given us over the past year. I am sure everyone appreciates you! Thank You

  6. IndigoSkies says:

    International Wota is great. I remember back when I found it around April/May last year through HNPH (which I found while googling for Kanashimi Twilight lyrics). I was totally unfamiliar to blogging, and while I had kinda figured there were blogs about j-pop, I would never have imagined a community like this. It’s actually what inspired me to start my own blog, I think.
    IW has made me into an even bigger H!P fan than I was before. It’s what inspired me to actually learn the names of the H!P Kids! xD
    Even though my writing isn’t nearly as good as many other bloggers, and my blog tends to focus more on my short opinions on recent news and releases rather than going very deep into anything, I feel like just reading other people’s blogs helps me somewhat improve my writing. Looking back at older blogs of mine (I don’t really consider them “blogs” in the same sense as what you see on IW- they were almost entirely personal stuff, and I only used them as a place to rant because I had no one to talk to…and of course not one person read them) I’ve improved a lot, I don’t have random fangirl spaz moments and I think my writing’s a bit more professional now. Of course it doesn’t even compare with a lot of other bloggers, but…
    I really love the site and the community, and congratulations for the one year. And thank you, Ray, for everything you’ve done.

    By the way…
    “…And yes, that’s a blatant plea for more folks to sign on as contributors.”
    I’d be interested in trying it out. I don’t think I could be as active as some of the current contributors, I probably couldn’t contribute much during the school week, but I could at least contribute on the weekends.

  7. zush says:

    I think it was our friend Wu who once characterized you Ray as a father figure or godfather of J-pop/rock/idol Blogosphere. That’s so true in many ways. IW has grown to be the center of our little Universe. There is much synergy flowing here and that’s a great thing of course. I guess there are many blogs out there those have got their inspiration in their beginnings because of IW and it’s encouraging presence.

    So… Congrats Ray & IW! You sure know we love & respect you.

    And me, well, I’m little ashamed because I’ve been far too inactive here and same thing also with my own blogs. Hope this strong turbulence in my private life soon fades away and I could return to my writing mood again.

  8. Vee says:

    Thank you for everything, Ray. It’s going to be a great year.

  9. Henkka says:

    Happy birthday IW, and thank you for everything you’ve done, Ray. πŸ™‚ Let’s hope the second year will be even more successful!

  10. Chiakii says:

    Ray, you are awesome. πŸ™‚ Happy birthday IW!

  11. oroitsme says:

    Congrats on a year! Thanks Ray for everything you’ve done – looking forward to see how year 2 goes. πŸ™‚

  12. Hanachan says:

    Thank you for all of the contributions to the J-pop blogosphere. If it weren’t for me stumbling across Cult of Pop while looking for information on Melon Kinenbi, I would have never become such an H!P fan, sticking in my Puffy-Hikki-Ayu-only catagory, and maybe I would have even lost interest in J-pop. IntlWota has exposed me to such new music and ideas, and has inspired me very much.

    Keep on rockin’! πŸ˜‰

    P.S.- I will be making IW a cake! I’m known for giving birthday presents late in real life, so I can’t help but do it now, due to my busy schedule. And I promise, I will post a new entry soon!

  13. Tsuji_Eriku says:

    You can’t see it right now but I’m doing the double thumbs up signal.

  14. johpan says:

    Awesome read! Always fun knowing where things you love come from! I can’t help but compare IntlWota to another community I “try” to contribute to who also celebrated an anniversary, especially after the “I no longer want to be the center of attention” line. I don’t know the complete history of this other community but here’s what I do know. Also, there is a connection between them and IntlWota.

    Aside from being a music blogger, I dip my feet into the game blogging world when I have something to write about. Destructoid, the biggest independent gaming blog, has a bunch of similarities to IntlWota except that it just celebrated its 2 year birthday, which coincidentally shares the same birthday as the founder of the site. I didn’t even know the founder’s name until the videos came up. This reminds me of what you said Ray, that you no longer want to be the center of attention. As a new person in the Destructoid community, I’ve read (the founder) Niero’s name in the staff list (though never remembered) and see him in the robot helmet at various events but he was never front and center in the website.

    Though, once his birthday rolled around, a 37 minute long video popped up from all the staff wishing him the kindest of wishes. As much as you don’t want to be in the spotlight, you can’t help but be #1 with the inner circle. That and the amount of work you put into this, how can you not be respected by those around you?

    And the connection if you were wondering, some of the Japanator staff works as Destructoid staff.
    Interesting tidbit there…

  15. Richie says:

    Happy first birthday! It’s great to be able to find interesting links on J-pop in one place rather than stumbling upon them on a daily basis. And I must also add that your thoughts on how blogging and writing not being as simple as it looks rings so true for me too.

  16. nekocafe says:

    HAPPY B* DAY INTL WOTA πŸ™‚
    i really enjoy reading your posts..and im sure there will be a LOT more in the future πŸ™‚

    ps: aww…our intl wota blog is growing up πŸ™‚

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