And so ends the long journey of the Otaku Diaries. When this project fully launched back in January 2009 we had high hopes but the response has exceeded everything we could have imagined. Although we had done several experiments on the blog, nothing we had been as ambitious or as far-reaching as this. The purpose of this last post is to put a conclusion on the project as a whole. This is a moment of reflection before we move on to what we do next. I want to learn from what we did here to have out next major project be even better.
Personally, I’m proud that we were able to see this project through to its conclusion almost a year and a half after it came into existence. It wasn’t always what we expected it to be, and it certainly wasn’t flawless, but I’m glad we were able to follow through with it which will hopefully set a standard for any upcoming projects.
I must say overall I think the project was a huge success. We got a great response from people all through out the anime and manga community. We received tons of help from blogs and podcasts who got the word out about the project when it was starting up and needed the most help. We got great responses from the wonderful people who filled out the numerous extremely personal questions. As the posts came out, I saw several posts where people picked up ideas we had presented in the Otaku Dairies and either built on what we said or presented intriguing alternate ideas. We even got some constructive criticism which is often more important than praise. I think no matter what we got people thinking about anime fandom. We got them to question the way they looked at their fellow fans and maybe even themselves. I have seen other people trying similar experiments outside of academia and look forward to the results.
What was really successful for the project was our overall goal, we wanted to see and show others how diverse yet how connected fandom was and we wanted to do this through more than just a percentage and a cookie-cutter answer for questions. I think by going in with a positive goal, it really helped to keep us in the spirit of the project and enthusiastic about the posts. And I have to agree it was really rewarding to see people mentioning Otaku Diaries on their own blogs or podcasts or even just talking about it on Twitter. I think certain sections of the survey were clearly more popular reads, but that also stems from asking the right questions, in the right way, and getting wonderful, thoughtful, and revealing answers. And in this way making it anonymous was certainly the right decision.
As with any major project mistakes will me made. The biggest mistake oddly enough was the instructions for the part of the survey called the “Otaku Diary.” We wanted to see how much the average anime fan watched and did anime related activities over the course of the week. If you notice there is nothing from that section in the posts because most of the time that section was not filled out and when it was it was incorrect. Our instructions for that section were horrible. We should have gone into more depth of what we wanted and provided a sample so people knew how to fill it out. In hindsight, that section should have been a project in of itself. Considering how many questions were in the main part of the survey it was too demanding to ask anyone to also catalog what they did for a week as well.
I completely underestimated the amount of time that would have to be devoted to this project. It is almost a blessing that we had a solid pool of 40 participants, I think too much more would have really made things unwieldy. The sheer amount of information gathering, reading, and re-reading took a couple of months. This also dictated the schedule of posts to once a month, I think this may have flagged some readers which was unfortunate. As for the wording on the “Otaku Diary” part, yeah, I don’t know what we were thinking. But to that end, I wish we would have put more examples in the entire survey as a whole. We came too late to realizing our errors in the vagueness of certain questions and then getting a myriad of answers because of it making connections between them all became much more difficult. Even a simple “If yes, please explain,” would have probably helped at points.
Even more than what we did wrong there were things that we would change if we ever did a similar experiment again. First and foremost we would narrow the focus of the next experiment we do. We would look at some smaller groups or aspects of fandom with less questions but more participants. We also got some great insight into how to phrase our questions to get better answers. Also some questions immediately gave way to ideas for follow-up questions that we did not think of when we wrote up the survey. We might also try doing the next experiment with interviews over Skype. We would lose some of the anonymous candor but in return gain the ability to be more probing when asking questions.
In a perfect world this survey would be collected digitally. But the fact that neither of us really have the technical skill required to do that and the places that do it for you, we were worried about security issues, it just wasn’t going to happen. But of course this would have helped the organization of information and probably cut some of the time down throughout the process. And even though of course I would shorten it, this long survey was actually able to help us understand what topics and focuses might be viable for further study. We literally didn’t know how any of it was going to go or how people would answer and react, so really the wide range was both a good idea and difficulty.
I’m not sure what other people have taken away from the Otaku Diaries but I took a greater appreciation of my fellow anime fans. All the participants impressed me on some level with their answers. Even if I can’t attach a face to most of participants (and I’m sure some of them appreciate that) I was touched by the intimate look they allowed us to have into who they are and how their hobby has affected them. The experiment also confirmed and dispelled some of my conceptions of fandom. It confirmed the fact that anime is a young fandom with enthusiastic fans of both genders. I was relived by the diversity of the fandom although unsurprised that it tended towards the geeky. All of the results made me wonder if someone were to do a larger survey with say 1000 participants how much our data would match theirs and how much did our small sample size misrepresent the truth.
I want to doubly point out that this was an amateur experiment, we don’t have degrees in sociology, psychology, statics analysis, or anything else that might be relevant. We were just two people who wanted to know more about our fellow fans and thought others might enjoy the journey as well. It wasn’t a perfect project, but I learned a lot and I think the many people who participated and read along enjoyed the results of the project. I am certainly interesting in doing more in the future.
The most important think I took away from the Otaku Diaries was what an amazingly diverse, beautiful, passionate, and even a bit frightening group of people the anime and manga community is. Everyone who participated in the project gave us a fascinating insight into what types become fans of this hobby. Each entry was like a self portrait in its own unique style and pallet of colors. But all of the images could be put together to give partial insight into the giant collage that is otakudom. I hope that the project helps anyone to look at the big picture of anime and manga fans in a new light.
Special Thanks: The Otaku Diaries were mentioned by Anime World Order, Anime Roundtable, The Ninja Consultant, Dave and Joel’s Fast Karate for the Gentleman, and Ain’t It Cool News and we must thank them very much for helping us to find participants. Ogiue Maniax blogged about each entry, Anime Diet discussed otaku dating in regards to our article on it, Fuzakenna was a participant and even posted his Otaku Diary survey publicly, and Anime3000 invited us on the A3K Panel to discuss the project.