4 years ago, a group of anime bloggers set up the Anime Blog Awards. They were a sort of anime blog oscars, where bloggers submit blogs for various categories and vote for the best. There was some initial interest in the nomination stage, but the actual award stage came under heavy criticism for being just an excuse for the big boys to pat each other on the back, along with many people barely even noticing that the final results had been posted. There were plans to run the awards again next year, but that never came to pass. Two years later, a discussion on twitter about the pros and cons of the ABAs led to the creation of the Aniblog Tourney. The idea was to make something like the ABAs except more fun and engaging.
While there were more positives than negatives to come out of the first tourney, it was clear it had much room for improvement. A lot of the complaints, such as people being given the opportunity to drop out with minimal fuss if they didn’t like the idea of participating, were solved by simply having a longer build up and preparation. One potential issue I saw coming from this was that a big name blog would pull out and fans of that blog would declare the entire tourney null and void because that blog wasn’t featured. Sure enough, Random Curiosity pulled out, but there ended up being absolutely no complaints about this whatsoever. People just accepted that RC didn’t want to take part.
Other complaints were handled less well. People complained that the first tourney totally missed a bunch of blogs and that ignoring manga/light novel blogs was illogical. So we spread our search and upgraded the tourney from 96 to 160 blogs. There were also complaints that the tourney took too long, so we shortened the amount of time each match stayed open and had more matches per day. In retrospect, it should have been pretty clear these two would never work together. More match ups a day meant people were less likely to check out the blogs in the other matches, and fatigue set in a hell of a lot quicker. Plus the tourney ended up lasting longer anyway because of the break we took to get the new polling system in. If we were to run a tourney again, it’s pretty clear that an opt-in policy rather than an opt-out policy would be far better. A lot of bloggers would allow laziness and indifference to take over and not enter, but the evidence suggests that it wouldn’t be a bad thing at all if this was the case.
I changed the method I dealt with drama and complaints this time around. Last time I took a much more hands-on approach, coming into comments section on the tourney and other blogs to address complaints whenever they arose. What I found was that when someone has decided they don’t like the tourney, no amount of discussion will change their mind and will usually just make them angrier and escalate the situation, compounded by the fact the same people who complained in the past would chime in every time this happened. This time I just decided to ignore the people who clearly wouldn’t be converted to believers. Result: Exactly the same amount of drama. Still the same ratio of complaints about the tourney itself to those competing. Still accusations of the tourney being rigged. Still the same format of there being drama choke points that drive lots of hits but essentially no extra participation on parts of those who love watching the drama.
There are the issues that are inherent to the tourney format. Two ones that showed up repeatedly were ‘circle-jerk’ and ‘popularity contest’. This should have been pretty obvious from the start, since the tourney did literally come from the thought process “who would win in a popularity contest between 2-D Teleidoscope and Umnei Kaihen”. This is why it was a bit silly when people would declare it to be a popularity context as though they were revealing something dramatic that the tourney organisers didn’t realise themselves. Of course nobody except the most delusional thought the tourney was about finding the ‘best’ anime blog. If that was the case, I’d have just set the final as Mecha Guignol losing narrowly to Ogiue Maniax. Might not have gotten as much viewers, but at least it would have been correct.
Then there were public polling systems, which I realised towards the end of this tourney that a system that nobody has any issues with and runs completely smoothly is a holy grail that can never be reached. We got the polls to open and close when we want, without having to be on hand at the exact hour to ensure this happened, but there were still issues. We got a new polling system in that you could tell when people were proxy voting, but proxy votes still got through. Trying to block proxy votes led to honest voters being blocked. Hiding the vote counts so it would be easier to delete the fake votes resulted in complaints that it killed the excitement. Being able to see all the IPs still meant that you had to go down through them to pick out any irregularities, an excruciatingly boring task. Then in the very final match, voting from multiple devices suddenly became a big issue. This particularly baffled me, as nobody had complained about this before despite the fact people had been fairly open about doing this across the past 2 tourneys. Even if we were to clamp down on it (although expecting us to do it in the very final match was completely absurd), it’s impossible to track even with staff studiously studying every vote coming in.
The other issue is the competitive nature of the tourney has too many negative effects. The stress involved in having multiple people judge your blog isn’t particularly pleasant for most people. It also brings out the worst in some of the competitors with smack talk, while others get all easily offended by friendly competition banter. A far bigger issue is it does very little to encourage those to check out the blogs competing. Unless you have a very open mind and are willing to check out all the blogs competing, most people will just vote for the blog they know and ignore the rest, particularly those who read only one blog. If anything, they revel in their ignorance in the rest of the blogosphere, claiming they’re proud to only read that one blog. Vote counts in matches with the super-popular blogs indicated as much, as did some of the shockingly ignorant comments they left. I cry a little inside when someone says “unlike all those other episodic blogs that just recap the episode”.
There’s clearly a lot of value to running the tourney. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence of people discovering new blogs to read, along with the usual small handful of blogs that experience a big increase in the amount of readers they get. I even saw some of the newer bloggers say that the first aniblog tourney was one of the reasons they started blogging, and they were delighted to finally be able to participate themselves. The issue is readers only get a much out of it as they put in. While it’s excellent at attracting people, it’s frankly rubbish at convincing those to put in the effort to give each blog a chance. As I said earlier, the competitive nature of the tourney doesn’t encourage that.
Basically what I’m trying to lead up to here is I don’t think the tourney should run again in its current form. After the first tourney I was optimistic that most of the issues could be ironed out, but this time it’s just the deadening truth that these problems are inherent to the format. It would have to be drastically changed from what the previous two were like to be worth running again. At the moment I can think of 3 possible routes:
- Bring back the Anime Blog Award format, except instead of a focus on congratulating the big boys on a job well done, switch the focus to newer blogs. A very simple yearly format where every blog between 2-14 months old is entered and bloggers vote on the Best New Anime Blog of the Year. A clear focus on promoting newer blogs, rather than the total lack of focus the Aniblog Tourney has, would likely get more traction and goodwill and would be considerably less fuss to run.
- Forget any notion of trying to encourage those who barely read anime blogs to use the tourney as a resource. So few did so anyway. Embrace the circle-jerk nature and swap to a self-nomination and a closed-voting system. People submit themselves to be one of the voters. Something like about 64 blogs and 200 voters. For those who want to vote but didn’t know of the tourney’s existence until after submissions had closed, there could be a rolling system where after each round, those who didn’t vote get cut for newer people. It’s a step closer to the ABA format again, but keeps the intrigue of a tournament system while also doing away with ‘popularity contest’ complaints.
- One aspect many bloggers praised from the tourney was the feedback they received. If bloggers really consider this to be the most valuable part, then clearly the tourney is a terrible format for getting feedback. Instead you should focus on some sort of site where you submit your blog to a queue of blogs to be critiqued. Each week a new blog would be featured and people would leave comments with their feedback and criticisms. The nature of this format means people will be fully aware and prepared for incredibly negative comments about their site.
I’m afraid I can’t think of a format that would encourage non-blog or single-blog readers to check out new blogs. The ABAs seem like a good idea because they would highlight the best of the best for people to check out, but that didn’t really happen when it ran originally. These methods also miss some of the tourney’s selling points, such as its vast scope and ability to attract a fairly big audience. But yeah, in its current state, it’s too much effort for not enough reward with too many drawbacks.
Final point of order is that I’m not going to be running any of these things myself. It takes way too much time and effort for an ultimately thankless task. So much stress involved in making sure everything runs smoothly and too many people ready to jump at every mistake to declare the entire tourney delegitimized (this sort of comment often confused me too, since I have no idea what the concept of a ‘legitimate’ tourney was meant to look like). I got fucking sick of the whole thing, and it’s not like I’m paid to put up with this. Some of the staff has expressed interest in helping set up whatever the next version of the tourney is, but not in running it themselves. I’m sure some bright spark will come along with too much time on their hands and run some grand aniblog event in two years time, as I and some other naive bloggers did two years ago. If you’re that person, you can e-mail me and I’ll send you my big excel spreadsheet of blogs if you think it will be useful. Heck, maybe you think the aniblog tourney is great and want to run it again yourself. In which case, you are an insane bastard and I want nothing to do with you. But good luck anyway.