“Not only are bloggers suckers for the remarkable, so are the people who read blogs.” —Seth Godin
Unlike earlier anniversary posts, today, the shortage of things to say this time around is not an issue. On a cold, grey October evening seven years previously, I published the first post to Infinite Mirai. At this time, this blog was intended to supplement a much older website that I had written to previously, but with my increasing familiarity with WordPress and its features, I began using WordPress in a much greater capacity, finally retiring my old website and transitioning here full-time. Seven years since then, this blog has certainly lasted much longer than was initially anticipated, and exactly six months ago, reached the one million views milestone. Today, at the seven year mark, Infinite Mirai reaches another milestone: I have now written and published a thousand posts, as well. A thousand of anything is a nontrivial number: with a thousand dollars, one could have 235 coffees at Starbucks, buy 33 hard cover novels, 12 triple-A games or go out for a nice steak dinner every day of the week for three consecutive weeks. 1000 square kilometers is enough to comfortably fit the entirety of my home town, and 1000 kilometers is roughly the distance between Calgary and Vancouver. For bloggers, a thousand posts represents a serious commitment to their topic of choice and a profound love for writing: on the journey to a thousand posts, there are no shortages of learnings. The first learning is that any post takes some time to conceptualise and write out: on average, my posts now average around 3500 words, up from 1120 when I began utilising WordPress more frequently. Each post takes two to three hours to write, and with the site metrics, I roughly average 1000 views per post. I do not write with a predefined frequency or schedule, and I almost never use the WordPress editor directly because there’s always a risk that my browser crashes, I accidentally hit the back button or unintentionally refresh the page. A thousand posts later, I can reasonably say I’ve learned a thousand things, as well, ten of which I will share here as the summary of something called 日积月累 (jyutping jat6 zik1 jyut6 leoi6), which means “to accumulate gradually” in my tongue.
The biggest learning, however, is that the readers deserve full credit for allowing this blog to reach such a milestone. It is a joy to writing for people who will read the content and come away from it with a positive experience. The current WordPress anime community is simply put, a very positive, inviting one and I am very grateful to be a part of it. Every blogger takes their own unique approach towards writing: from my lengthy discussions to the more concise, focused talks other bloggers publish, there is no shortage of insight, friendly discussion and appreciation for different perspectives among the community. Looking back, the main reason why this blog has endured seven years is because for me, writing about anime and games, then injecting small remarks about my life (and my attendant thoughts) is no different than maintaining a journal for mental health. When I was much younger, I kept journals for school assignments and also to improve my English (contrary to expectation, English is not my native language); this practise fell away by the time I reached secondary school, but with the advent of my anime hobby and increasing stresses associated with life, I’ve found blogging to be an immensely cathartic experience, helping me keep things in perspective and also keep my blessings in mind. Thus, at the seven year mark, rather than say that I’m not sure as to whether or not I will continue blogging, wisdom would suggest that I will continue to blog as long as I find it useful and enjoyable, even if things are now sufficiently uncertain so that I can say with certainty that my frequency will be reduced in the foreseeable future. For taking the time to read this blog, and doubly so for putting up with the very unusual way that I run things here, I offer a big thank you to all of my readers for keeping things exciting and fresh.
Ten Lessons After Seven Years and One Thousand Posts
- The biggest challenge all bloggers will face is getting the views when they are starting out. A new blog is not indexed in Google, will have no followers initially and must exist in the shadow of other blogs writing about similar topics. However, this should not be an impediment for bloggers: don’t worry about traffic and focus on getting content, as well as developing your voice and style. When I opened my blog seven years ago, I averaged 9 views a day and rounded out 2011 with 828 views. The year after, I saw a gradual increase in traffic, from 19 views a day to 188 views a day. However, when I really began focusing on writing here, traffic increased to around 300 views per day. Time and exposure will increase visibility.
- Finding interesting subjects to write about is another impediment bloggers of all experience levels and disciplines face. With the relative ease of posting one’s thoughts, being original can be very tricky, as someone might have already expressed your thoughts precisely as you envisioned them. In the realm of anime, for instance, reacting to events in episodes and writing about one’s feelings is an admittedly dull and tired way of writing. I tend to focus on big picture elements and their relevance to reality, especially in relation to my own experiences and beliefs. Because of this personal element, my voice becomes different enough to be noticeable.
- Blogging regularly and consistently is essential to keep readers returning for more, but so is good quality content. Similarly, mixing things up also can draw in readers: I typically do series reviews and discussions in a standardised paragraph and commentary format, but occasionally, there are some topics that allow me to break the mold. These special posts have done very well because they are distinct and offer unique content that occasionally draws attention from folks on Reddit, Quora or even Wikipedia, who link here and bring traffic with them. My favourite examples of exotic posts include one where I do a discussion on the size of the school ships in Girls und Panzer, as well as my location hunt posts.
- It takes good planning to blog well. A lot of folks tend to follow a schedule and promise to blog on certain days of the week, but during slower times, don’t have anything they feel that they can share. I operate in a different space, writing only when I have things to talk about: when an idea comes to mind, I usually run through it in my head for a few days, then draft out a concept. If I can return to the draft later and still see where I was going, then the topic was worth writing about and will be turned into a full scale post. This applies to a majority of my posts, although there are cases that for topics fresh on my mind, or those that I am particularly connected with, I will be able to write those much more quickly.
- Another discovery I’ve made is that the anime blogging community in its current form is very supportive and approachable. When I began, the likes of Behind the Nihon Review, Anime History and Dark Mirage dominated the anime blogging community, flooding it with purple prose-filled posts about the shortcomings of every show under the sun and putting down all who disagreed with them. These days, largely thanks to the tools available, more people have joined the realm of anime blogging and with it, positive attitudes have prevailed. As such, don’t be afraid to reach out to other bloggers and ask them for feedback on your content, or to discuss with them ideas you may not agree with. We are a friendly group open to different ideas, a far cry from the juggernauts of old.
- Understand why you wish to maintain a blog: blogging can be a professional occupation, and even in its hobby form, can still be very time-consuming and demanding. If there’s a good reason that you are writing for, whether it is to simply share your thoughts, or because you are writing for folks important to you, or like myself, it’s a release from the challenges of life, then your inclination will be to continue using the blog to communicate with and share with others.
- Don’t do controversy: fighting flame wars is stressful and counterproductive, even if it brings in traffic. I typically do not stray into the realm of controversy, and where I have opinions on things where I align with one side, I tend to be subtle about it (such as on the infamous journalism ethics in video games culture war some years back), or else I will address both sides of the argument (such as in things like Sword Art Online). Stressful blogging is a deterrent for putting out more content, and so, I personally prefer maintaining positivity where I can to ensure that I am always happy to come back to writing for this blog.
- I’ve mentioned on several occasions that I blog when I feel it appropriate, rather than according to a set schedule. Writing when I have something to say always progresses more easily than if I struggle with a topic, and on days where I have no inclination to write, I am not likely to put out anything useful for the readers. It is similarly okay to take breaks from blogging without guilt.
- In an age where common courtesy and civility is rare, I nonetheless strive to be polite to all of my readers, encouraging folks to disagree with me and also to think for themselves. Being polite to readers will encourage readers to return: the point of a blog is not to lay down one’s views as the only views, but to present one’s views as one of many. Having good discussions with other readers is always a big plus and may even lead to ideas for more posts. I admit that I am not always adhering to this, occasionally drawing on outrageous perspectives as topics for my posts to shoot down (e.g. Mythbusting in Your Name) and calling out random folks from across the ‘net for their perspectives on a series.
- My ultimate learning is to be yourself, which I previously mentioned in my Million Views milestone. A lot of bloggers wonder what approach they must take to run a successful blog, and I’ve noticed that a successful blogger is someone who is concise, focused, polite and above all else, true to themselves. They write with their own voice, choice of words, on the topics they enjoy writing about, in the manner of their choosing. While it is important to consider one’s target audience, ultimately, readers will stick with the blogs that stand out. For me, this means making random wisecracks about the Marvel Cinematic Universe in posts about beach volleyball, compare history’s greatest survivalists to a group of high school girls who love camping and finding similarities between my favourite NHL team and a series about girls who ride tanks as a sport. It means occasionally thinking about food when I’m supposed to be writing about anime, and disappointing viewers when I write about how to have a good time in The Division or Battlefield when viewers would much rather read about pantsu in Strike Witches. Sorry, folks, but one does not keep a blog for seven years by being inconsistent: having a well-established style means it is easier to write things down, and perhaps I might reach the two thousand post mark at some point with my current approaches.
At the seven year mark and one thousand posts, I now have 1.1 million views and some 1750 comments. Akismet has blocked nearly 40000 spam comments, and I’ve got around 1.9 million words in total across the thousand posts. With these numbers in mind, “where is Infinite Mirai headed in the future?” is the questions readers invariably ask. To this, I have no definite answer: life is mutating, unpredictable and ever-changing, and circumstances always arise to both accommodate and reduce blogging. Having said this, because of the beneficial aspects of writing for me (for one, it keeps my mind focused and also helps me hone my writing), I am going to be sticking around even if I write with reduced and more erratic frequency. My focus predominantly deals with slice-of-life series, anything telling a particularly noteworthy story about life lessons and the oft-maligned military moé genre, as well as various video games I’ve experienced, and this will not be changing in the future. I still have plans to write about Girls und Panzer Das Finale, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?’s third season, Strike Witches‘ Road to Berlin and the Hai-Furi movie, for instance. Battlefield V, Metro: Exodus and DOOM Eternal also look to offer some interesting points of discussion. With the community’s support and encouragement, I will be continuing my journeys and see where things take me. I’d like to thank everyone again — you readers and fellow bloggers mean the world to me, and whether you’re a regular who shows up whenever new content is published, or if you’re here by chance because my idiosyncrasies tend to mess up search engines, your readership is precisely what keeps things going here.