Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Japanese Web Lamentation

I remember in the late 90s, when I used to surf the Japanese internet and just enjoy the refreshing difference of the kind of sites I'd find, as well as the different aesthetic and, oftentimes, the different kinds of art and different things they did. It was always something new and exciting.

However, recently it's been more depressing than anything else. It's a reflection of the society, admittedly, and right now Japan isn't in a good way thanks to some dodgy direction for the country and a lot of upheaval as the generational shifts force society into new ways, even as the old guard try to cling to the old.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I understand some of the secrecy. I understand the need that some of them feel to add a password or a hidden URL to access their sites.

But you know what? Most of the time, it's just stupid.

The most common reason that these people give for them putting their sites behind a password or a generally stupid URL is to prevent 'foreigners' from reproducing the pictures and reposting them elsewhere.

News flash, guys: most reposting and reproduction is done by Japanese people on the Japanese internet, not the all-inclusive label of 'foreigners'. There were some isolated incidents over ten years ago where a handful of American sites attempted to lift art from Japanese sites and charge visitors for the privilege of viewing it, but that was pretty much dealt with quickly. It was also completely blown out of proportion, and more or less zero of the modern Japanese internet has ever had to worry about the same.

It's just xenophobia, and it's crass.

As for reposting of images, don't put them online if you don't want them to find their way around again. Most of the time, the images are jpg anyway, which means that they're incredibly lossy. They're not suited for print. Any professional would be able to tell you this. If you're worried about people not finding their way back to your site or you getting the credit you need, learn how to comment in the file of a gif or put a watermark on the image that can't be covered or removed without disrupting the image itself.

Another thing about Japanese websites is that they aren't around forever. Most websites are impermanent by nature, but Japanese websites are the example of ephemeral web presences. If a website owner loses interest in the fandom or doesn't want to draw anymore, as many of them are hobbyists, the site can just close overnight and you will never see the art again. This is one of the reasons why people will save and sometimes later repost the art. It is also not uncommon at all that site owners will remove work that they no longer like, or work of a series that they no longer follow, without any warning.

Having a website for your art is wonderful, but it's self-defeating if you make visitors jump through so many hoops to see it that they end up quitting because it's not worth the trouble. Who wants to sit there and try to figure out the (usually misspelled) answer to a puzzle that only makes sense to the person who wrote it, to see art that may or may not wow them? It's a shame, but a lot of people just decide they'd rather click on another site that doesn't have the ridiculous restrictions and actually, you know, gives them content that they don't have to work so hard just to see. Attention spans are devastatingly low, especially online; if you haven't gripped an audience in half a minute, you're not going to get them to stay and figure out a quiz for the next five.

Most of the time, the content hidden by these endless tests isn't even controversial, or worse yet, the creator thinks it's much more prone to excite than it actually is. When I can be bothered to figure out the inane clues, most of the time I'm greeted with content that reaches such stunning extremes as two male characters having a drink together, or a character with his shirt off at the beach, or something. This is not controversial.

There's really no reason to put a password or hidden URL on your website. It's going to end up posted online somewhere, no matter how much you try to persuade your visitors not to do so. And even doing that and posting it on your site is going to tempt countless visitors to do it, simply because you asked them not to. It is an incredibly ill-considered tactic.

If you are going to go to the trouble, however, use some logic. Yes, you'll have an extra layer of assurance because all visitors obviously wanted to access the content if they bothered to figure out the password. However, any password is going to give them pause. If you wrote down the password in a paragraph on the index page, it would still make them have to read that paragraph in order to find out what it is.

If you are determined to make it a guessing game, at least make it something that people in the fandom would know. Most sites aren't dedicated to a single series. But those that are could have the password or URL be something from the series. However, it does no good if this is some obscure reference that not even many of the fans will know.

To illustrate, I went to one site looking for Lord of the Rings work. The site I found was a great site, but there was a hidden URL to access part of it. So I sighed and read the question.

'In what year did Bilbo adopt Frodo as his heir?'

I used to be pretty conversent in Middle-Earth, but who memorises things like that? To boot, it's not like there is a single dating convention for Middle-Earth, since Tolkien never liked anything that was straightforward or simple.

Virtually no member of the fandom is going to know that. They shouldn't be expected to know that. It would be much better to ask something like 'what is the name of the Hobbit who claimed the Ring from Gollum?' or 'what is the name of the grey wizard?' or 'how many rings were made for the Elves?' At least people would know them offhand, and they're things that any fan of the series can be expected to know.

But I did some searching and found it out. It wasn't that easy, but it wasn't ridiculously difficult. I still shouldn't have had to take the time doing that.

The unfortunate thing is, that's one of the easier times you will have if you go to surf the Japanese web.

So many sites now have two-part guessing games, too. So you end up with two obtuse clues and a frankenword that makes less sense. You end up with a word like 'dildofruit' or something and you wonder why on earth you had to spend so much time figuring it out. Usually it's wrong and you have to try to guess what the writer originally intended, because they write riddles that they don't realise only make sense to them.

I know there probably aren't many people reading who will understand what I'm talking about, but I hope some of them might know and feel they're not alone by reading this. I'd write more of the Japanese sites, but I can't figure out all the hints to get to them!

No comments:

Post a Comment