Q & A: Gia Manry
Gia, the Portland-based journalist/blogger, was animeOnline's head news editor. Rumor has it that she's actually a robot, though. According to Gia's old profile on animeOnline: "She's been an Internet junkie since Sailor Moon was cancelled and she ventured onto IRC to learn why, only to instead find herself trapped in the crazy and perverted world that is the Internet."
With animeOnline closed, Gia now spends more time on her own blog Giapet.net, with the intent of turning it into animeOnline's spiritual successor. More recently, Gia found a new home at theOtaku.com, where she continues her quest of daily otaku news coverage.
Please introduce yourself
Gia Manry: My name is Gia Manry and I've been an anime fan for more than half of my life. I was animeOnline's news editor, and I provided most of the news content for the site.
How did you find your way into animeOnline?
Gia: Rob had my resume from when he was working with Anime Insider, where I did some freelance work. He originally approached me for a part-time gig, which I applied for, and then he decided to offer me the full time job instead.
In your opinion, what was animeOnline's goal? What were you trying to accomplish?
Gia: animeOnline's goal was two-fold: one, to offer a "MySpace"-like social networking environment just for fans of anime, and two, to provide a constant and consistent stream of anime and anime-related news to its users in an informational and entertaining format.
animeOnline and Funimation are owned by Navarre, how did the deal work?
Gia: It worked pretty simply: FUNimation didn't lay a hand on any of our news content. All of the news contributors - Rob, Bryan, Dale, and I - have no particular interest in FUNimation. None of us had ever worked for them before and although we knew some people would assume we were just a schill, we all agreed we'd rather walk out than let that happen. I think anyone who came and read our news and features would agree that we kept things pretty even-handed.
animeOnline opened to the public in February, how long was the site in development before then? Were there any drastic changes made to the site before it went public?
Gia: I was brought on in the beginning of January, but I believe Rob and the programmers had been working since about August of 2006.
animeOnline was the first major anime social networking site to debut in the U.S., how do you feel about the reactions and coverage the site received? Did everything go according to plan? What worked and what didn't?
Gia: Maybe I'm biased, but I think people liked our news better than much of the social networking stuff - but we had a lot of problems with our backend software.
Was there any major obstacle you encountered?
Gia: At risk of repeating myself...our backend software needed a LOT of help.
Besides animeOnline, TokyoPop has chosen to also provide more social features on their website. How do you feel about Tokyopop's website in terms of being a social networking website, and how does it compare to animeOnline? And what's your opinion on the newly launched social networking site AnimeMine?
Gia: Well, first, it's worth noting that animeOnline had a lot of problems with our social side, but that we were also in beta the entire time we were up. It was pretty glitchy ^^;
TOKYOPOP is a little less troublesome, though I've had problems off and on with logging in. I think neither site is 100% effective at connecting users, though.
I've spent a lot of time on LiveJournal, so I'm very used to the idea of having a "friends page," where you can see recent updates from everyone you have listed as a friend without having to check each account individually. It seems to me like neither site have a function quite like that, or at least I never found one on Tokyopop.
As for AnimeMine...honestly, I haven't fussed around it all that much. I'm somewhat skeptical by default, since they referred to their target audience as "otakas" twice in their original press release...and then, when people suggested that their look was amateur, they said that their look wasn't really ready yet, they were waiting for an artist or something like that? I guess I can't speak all that much since we launched in a beta originally, but it seems like waiting might have served AnimeMine better.
animeOnline and Japanator shared many similarities, both in style and tones (Japanator seems to post more videos tought).
Gia: Sort of. Japanator has a vaguely similar tone, but they do a lot more just fun, silly stuff and videos, and their news reporting is sort of all over the board, I think...at aO we were really devoted to getting out all of the news in as timely a fashion as possible.
I think Jtor does some really fantastic coverage, and I also think that they don't have full-time reporters...I bet if they did they'd have a lot more news coverage.
That's to some extent what we were going for, yeah :) People are really starting to see the power of reporting something in a more entertaining way, rather than in a traditional formal journalistic fashion.
Tell us what's a normal day at animeOnline for you, how do you work?
Gia: Well, I would usually start by going through my RSS feed reader. I have about 75 or 80 RSS feeds that I follow, like ComiPress's and many others, including some from Japan of course. Overnight I usually get about 150 posts that I have to go through.
I start collecting small things into categories for my UFO Newscatcher (our daily news round-up) and post anything that's urgent. Then I go through my e-mail, which is comprised almost entirely of Google Alerts. I have another 50 or so Google Alerts, which gives me another ~100 or so e-mails to go through. Then I post whatever news I've got up to that point. After that, I go through a few dozen bookmarks (American and Japanese production companies, news sites without RSS feeds, image/message boards, etc). And if I need more content after that, I just go tromping around the 'net to find fanart, figures, and whatever other fun stuff I can and post as I go.
At the end of the day I post my final round-up of all the smaller news that didn't really need its own separate post (site openings, release dates, etc).
What's your favorite RSS reader? Also, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of using RSS?
Gia: I am madly in love with RSS, personally. I've found that FeedReader (I'm currently using version 3.09) meets my needs pretty well, though I've considered online readers given that I switch between computers as well.
The advantages are obvious: you get kept up-to-date on all your blogs. The disadvantages are it's really easy to have so many feeds that it's hard to keep up on them! But to anyone who is running a regularly-updated website and wants to get information out directly to users (*cough cough, anime and manga companies, I'm looking at you*), I would definitely recommend finding a way to incorporate a RSS feed into your site.
It made my job a lot easier...though again, they tend to be the domain of blogs, but not professional companies. Off the top of my head, ADV and Broccoli are the only U.S. anime and manga companies to make really good use of a RSS feed, though Del Rey might start, after the deal with their SDCC blog.
What kind of software did animeOnline run on? Was it Open Source? Custom-made? Or is that a trade secret? ^^;
Gia: aO's software was called Dzoic Handshakes, and it was horrendously bad for what we were trying to do. It's the software Navarre purchased for us from the get-go, so we were stuck with it for the immediate future (though we hoped to switch to something better eventually). But basically, we had this software that did maybe half of what we wanted it to, and we had to add on all the rest of the features. And then the half that it did already, it did very poorly. I believe it mostly had to do with its particular method of verifying that it had been paid for, but I'm not a programmer and don't know all the details.
How were reader contributions?
Gia: In terms of news tips, contributions were moderate - much of what we got were stuff we'd have already come across earlier, but every once in a while a user pointed us to a great video or other news, which we loved.
Recently animeOnline was shut down, what happened?
Gia: Ah, the shut-down...basically, it was decided that the costs of getting us fully-functional wouldn't be worth it (e.g. fixing Dzoic), although I believe that there was some serious misinformation being passed around.
So what's going to happen to all the content on animeOnline?
Gia: not sure. We've been given copies of our feature articles to use as published clips in applying for work, and I took some PDF copies of a few news articles as well for the same reason. But I don't know what they intend to do with the site in the future.
According to the official announcement, this is the end of the Beta stage of the site; will there be a day when the site "officially launches"?
Gia: Again, I don't know what the plans for aO are. I hadn't heard anything about a re-launch before the day we were all officially laid off, so all I can guess is that whatever plans they might have don't involve me at this point.
What's your advice to someone who wants to start their own website, or, dare I say, a social networking website?
Gia: Gah, a social networking site? Other than "don't use Dzoic," I have no advice. That side of things really wasn't my focus, but I believe that there's a certain amount of money required to get people TO the site, unless you know the secret to getting Farked or something. As for starting any other kind of website? Update, update, update! The best websites, whether it's corporate or a personal blog, or whatever, update their content regularly, even daily.
What does the future hold for Gia?
Gia: As for my future...well, at the moment I'm doing some freelance work here and there; I'm currently posting on theOtaku on a daily basis, as well as more thorough news on my regular blog at giapet.net, where I also liveblogged the anime/manga-related panels from San Diego Comic Con.
If animeOnline ever comes back, do you think you'll go back?
Gia: In a heartbeat. Well, assuming it was more or less the same in terms of pay, tone, etc. If they changed the site significantly, well...I'd have to think about it.
What are some of the websites you visit everyday? Share your bookmark with us!
Gia: My bookmark list is very, very long, but some of the sites I like to visit the most are...Production I.G's. They really know what they're doing; they post updates to the site every few days, and even have an English-language website - which they ALSO update every few days! (Many companies have an English website with nothing more than investing information, which they never update.) Another fun one is AnimeNewsBriefs.com, which compiles posts from all of these other sites - ANN, ComiPress, Anime on DVD, and a bunch of others. It's pretty handy, especially if you want to see what everyone's buzzing about. I'm also very fond of Japan Probe, which talks about whatever is going down in Japan at the moment.
Gia: I always said on my profile that I like liking things and dislike disliking things. But that's mostly because I never know what to say for likes/dislikes.
Gia: Oh, another question I never have a good answer to! My favorite anime and manga change all the time, I'm not the kind of fan who has one all-time favorite. Currently my fave anime are probably Lucky Star, Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann...but there are so many others I'm enjoying! My blog has a big ol' watch list, if anyone wants to know all of it. My favorite manga these days are Ouran High School Host Club, Ghost Hunt, and Monster.