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I would like to revisit the reasons for using SE Q&A sites, and A&M in partucular, and whether you still feel like it's something you're interested in using as an average user would, or if something changed for you and why.

Please reflect on these thoughts:

  • Do you ask questions?

  • Do you post answers?

  • Do you engage in Meta more often than on the main site?

  • Do you still find it worthwhile to ask new questions, or do you now not bother because it would not be as interesting to know the answer (because it's something trivial or not that important and you can live just fine without knowing the answer)?

  • Would you rather (and do you) talk about anime/manga/VNs/games in a free format (chat/forum) than engage in Q&A activities?

  • Do you think in recent years fewer question-worthy works have been produces in the anime and manga space which led to the expected result of fewer questions being asked?

  • Or do you think that over the years of experience watching and reading, you have come to understand Japanese culture and anime/manga industry background more, so that you usually can figure out the answer to your questions on your own, and so asking (or posting a question and the answer) does not seem worthwhile to you?

  • Do you think posting trivial facts about minor mysteries would not be a worthy addition to the site's list of questions and so you often choose to not post these types of questions?

And lastly:

  • How do you think this site could benefit from (more or different) user interaction?
  • Would it go too far out of scope of the Q&A site's purpose and/or introduce too much responsibility for the moderating part of the community?
  • Do you think we need more of the same activity?
  • Do you think we should find new interesting ways to engage old and new users? Perhaps going out of the limited scope of just questions and answers? Something we could do in chats or revitalize the group anime watching sessions?
  • What are your thoughts on related forms of entertainment and how do you think they could be introduces more into this community?
  • How would you like to have fun spending time with other people interested in anime, manga and related entertainment?
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    I didn’t have time to write an answer for the other post but I think these are the questions that need to be asked if this site wants to create a community. – Torisuda Jun 19 at 21:05
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I stopped participating in this site because the Q&A format made it awkward or impossible to talk about anime in the way that I was interested in doing.

The Stack Exchange Q&A format was designed for programming. It works well for programming. It works well for other tech topics. It works pretty well for mathematics, engineering, and hard sciences like physics and chemistry. It works okay for writing, languages, music theory, and law, because those topics have bodies of rules that are widely accepted. It sort of works for parenting, pets, interpersonal relations, cooking, personal finance, travel, and the outdoors, because people can share their experience in a focused way.

The Stack Exchange Q&A format does not work well for fiction. I've participated in this site, Literature, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and Movies and TV, and none of them lent themselves to the Q&A format. The community had to search for a way to pound their topics into the Q&A format. On Sci-Fi and Fantasy, there was a known canon of popular universes with large bodies of complex rules, so the site organized itself around rules lawyering in fictional universes---"What if Harry Potter disarmed Draco Malfoy who married Severus Snape who owned the Elder Wand? Would Harry Potter own the Elder Wand?"

Movies and TV and this site both organized themselves around plot explanation and trivia. This site also got some mileage out of explaining Japanese cultural references and the genre conventions of anime, like why the characters all look white or why they get nosebleeds when they're horny. Those all fit neatly into the Stack Exchange format. You link an old Answerman column and you're done. The kinds of things I wanted to talk about didn't. I was more interested in literary analysis of anime---story structure, character, theme, symbolism, historical context, intertextuality.

You can kind of do that in the Q&A format. Literature has been more successful at fostering it than the other media sites. But even on Literature, I've always found the format constraining. Sometimes I observe something interesting and want to write it up and share it, but the only way to do it was through self-answers to awkwardly worded questions that presume the answer. We had similar cases on Anime and Manga; people would write interesting, detailed, well researched essays analyzing an anime series, and then they would tack on some clunky verbiage at the front for that "Question" box that the site makes you put something in.

And the community three years ago was in a bad spot. We were already running out of general interest questions and plot questions for the most popular shows (One Piece, Dragon Ball, Naruto, My Hero Academia, Bleach, Death Note). The site was flooded with lazy identification requests. There was a bitter fight to ban them. Even people from other sites waded into the fray to fight over it. They were finally banned, and site activity slowed to a crawl. A squad of users who didn't post questions or answers at all anymore began squatting on the review queues and closing or deleting anything that didn't look like it could be answered with a compiler. It was more fun to write on my blog. There, I didn't have to tack on pointless leading questions to make some Javascript accept my post. I didn't have to worry about catching shit from some squad of people who deemed my post too opinion-based. I could scrawl down messy thoughts and refine them in a later post. I could write things as dumb or as poorly researched as I wanted, and learn from it, and do better next time.

I'm too used to that freedom now, and I won't be coming back to this site as a regular user. This is a Stack Exchange site, and anyone who chooses to participate here is stuck with that restrictive Q&A format. I see that as the question that someone needs to answer if this site is to become a healthy community again: what's the value of a Stack Exchange-style Q&A site about anime and manga? Why would anyone want to talk about anime in this restrictive format meant for programming questions when there are blogs and forums and subreddits and comment sections where they can just love anime and talk about it however they want? What value do the Stack Exchange rules add to the discussion of anime? And how do you keep the community friendly and accepting while hewing to Stack Exchange's rules? How do you work with people who are probably quite young, who probably speak English as a second or third or tenth language, who post a badly written question that violates multiple rules, so that they come away feeling welcomed and satisfied while also getting to participate in the site on its terms?

Personally I don't think it's possible. I don't think the Stack Exchange format adds any value to the discussion of anime. But I hope y'all who are still on this site asking what can be done to make it better can prove me wrong.

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    I completely agree with the daunting limitation of the programming Q&A format suppressing more free dialogue, although I don't think SE would (even in better days) consider expanding its entertainment portion of sites into discussion forum territory. It just might be too hard to moderate for the regulars here who are so used to the SE culture of Q&A moderation that it could turn into a disaster. It's hard to tell what the heads at the SE company are thinking these days in terms of expansion and "engaging new audience at any(?) cost". Time could tell, but we can ask first and find out sooner. – Hakase Jun 20 at 2:24
  • Although I do think there is value in the strict Q&A format for entertainment questions for when you want to quickly and without noise find out the explanation for some event in a complicated detective story or character relationship. Or what the best order of watching a show or a set of connected movies is. These are great types of questions for the restricted clean Q&A format. But sure, if you want to have freeform discussions, right now there is no support for that here yet. – Hakase Jun 20 at 2:27
  • SciFi had a blog, maybe we could also figure out a way to have that. I'd rather try to go for the most diversity from the get go and talk about threaded comment discussion area (like reddit but you know, with better visual page design). That would both support blogging and forum-like discussions. Personally I think the classic single-depth response forum threads are outdated and threads with tree-structured comment branches supersede that format with almost no downsides. If we were to ask for such a feature from SE, I would not expect much. Perhaps we could affiliate with an existing site. – Hakase Jun 20 at 2:30
  • Connecting logins so that users wouldn't have to create separate accounts while separating moderation teams would help prevent one set of rules and moderation practices not creep into the other platforms, but still maintain a sense of unity between different formats. But I don't have much experience in such projects, so I don't know how great of an idea that would be. Maybe more experienced community people could know more, and if it's worth exploring for us here. – Hakase Jun 20 at 2:33
  • @Hakase Yeah, definitely agree that SE isn't going to give us anything. Even Stack Overflow isn't bringing in the dollars for them at this point. Also agree that the Stack Overflow culture of moderation is too strong to overcome. Literature has had some success at adopting looser moderation policies but that's made their scope very confusing. I have no idea what questions are on topic there. – Torisuda Jun 21 at 23:41
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    I think you're right about what questions about anime the Q&A format works for, but the problem is those questions are all completely transactional, and I don't see how you build a community around them. If I come here because I want to know watch orders, I don't care about the person who answers it. It could just as well be a bot that scrapes Wikipedia. And there's no room for answerers to bring anything unique to the table in writing their answers. I think those are both important for building online communities; I have to be able to get a sense of the person behind the text. – Torisuda Jun 21 at 23:42
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Personally, I have started using A&M when I was relatively new to anime and unexperienced in my tastes, and also wanted to know answers to some obscure questions, or finally ask things that have been bothering me for a long time before I knew there was a place I could ask them and receive an answer.

After a while I have explored my tastes enough to not want input from general audience with whom our tastes greatly differ. And after watching enough anime, I realized I don't care as much to learn about different mini-trivia, and thought it would clutter the site and would be looked down upon by regulars. Now I wouldn't even remember most of the questions I've had without looking them up in my question history, so it's difficult to say anything we ask here is "important" :p And in general, I just found other new ways to entertain myself and put watching anime and reading manga on hold for a couple years.


I think there is an arc to an average anime (and movie) question asker on the internet. You live your life without Q&A sites, watch anime, and a bunch of unresolved mysteries collect in your mind. Then you find a Q&A site or a forum and ask your accumulated baggage of questions, or find them already asked and answered. After that you might still ask a few more in the coming years. And after a while you learn how to search for these questions better and you find your answers without needing to ask on your favorite Q&A site. And then you grow up or life goes on and you lose interest in asking these sorts of questions. At least that's how I see an average user. All of us here on Meta.A&M are obviously outliers, so it might be hard to identify with this arc, but that is what I believe the "average" experience is.

Also, I think that with the passing of time (years, decades), the internet in general and this site in particular will be (and already is to a significant extent) saturated with most of the questions worth asking and keeping. So this is also a reason why the site is slowly but surely becoming "complete" and the need for filling it slowly but surely fades. At least now that we've had time (this site and internet at large) to discuss all interesting anime questions, the ratio of Asked/Unasked questions is nearing 1.0.

And with that, I don't think it makes sense to expect a normal user to perpetually want to engage in normal Q&A activities. Anime industry can't keep up with viewers asking and finding answers to unknowns. It might be wanting impossible from users to keep asking new interesting questions when there just are no more, and new ones are not created as quickly as before. So I don't know if we should limit the focus on only the Q&A portion of the Anime and Manga community on StackExchange, and I think it would be a good idea to seek engagement outside this scope if you don't mind stepping out of SE or maybe even asking SE devs for some integration with other Anime&Manga related entertainment platforms (anime/manga databases, forums, discord chats, what else is there in the greater interent).


Oh, and I don't think I could be as engaged in asking/answering questions as I once were, because I can't see myself doing "more of the same" for so long, after so long. I want to do different things now. But I can wander back here every couple years or so and chime in on community development and user experience :p Maybe propose some tools or describe how to develop them.

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Personally I have been participating less then I did prior.

When I first came to the platform of A&M, I was enthusiastic. At that point in time, anime and manga made up a big part of my life.
Most if not all of my friends where in to it, and I occasionally visited conventions with like minded people. Having a place to ask the questions that poped up in those scenarios, to like minded people, was a mind blowing concept to me.

It's been an learning experience for me overall, not only in the field of anime, but also in how to write.
I learned how to source questions, and back information with facts. I learned some grammar and sentence building, even though this can still improve :) As I went, I learned how to mostly distinguish goals and intent from questions, and how to assist/edit these to be more clear.

As Years started to pass, my google-foo skills started to increase. And soon after I started to find most of the answers I wanted on my own.
With this also came the added doubt

if I am able to find the answer this easily, does it really make for a good question?`

From that point onward I started asking less, and answering more.
However, answering the questions I considered fun where relatively labor intensive to answer, and with diminishing time, I also started to slow down on this.

Somewhere along the lines I also became a mod, and generally started to enjoy having casual chats with people in chat more.
Helping people along on their ways with exploring the platform, and myself having less burden of proof and more casual banter.


I still think there are plenty of questions to be asked, and answered. And with us not being limited to series specific questions only, I think there are still plenty of interesting questions to be asked. Given that we might lack the expertise to answer some of those questions.

I also think that A&M could greatly benefit from more ways to interact. However in the view of SE, I am not sure a form of open interaction, as commonly seen around anime and manga would be a good fit.

Going beyond the scope of A&M as a Q&A platform is something I have voiced in my conversations with Krazer recently as well, in particular, reviving the concept of a anime and manga discord. I think having a place where a more open form of communication is acceptable can greatly improve community bonding and interaction.

I don't think that moderating such a thing would be necessarily be more of a burden, if set up correctly. However getting it up and running, and garnering animo for it, would likely be as complex as drawing more attention to A&M in and of it self.

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4

Well...I didn't think I'd be writing a response in this fashion, but these are questions that need to be answered. I'm thinking that after this, we may need to have a good, long hard look in the mirror and answer the blatantly obvious question - do we as a community have a chance without Stack Exchange's support, or should we start branching out elsewhere?

Do you ask questions?

I don't for two distinct reasons.

  1. I've asked all of the "simple" questions that I can think of, really. I don't think there's more that I could drum up to be answered for the simple sake of seeding the community.

  2. The questions that I have that are really hard and really niche, well...my Google-fu skills have improved to a degree that I could either find an answer or motivate myself towards an answer on my own these days, or...get a solution from another community.

My biggest issue is that we don't have enough active subject matter experts on hand to be able to answer the questions I have, and it's entirely too time consuming to become a subject matter expert in more niche animes just to answer one or two burning questions.

Do you post answers?

Sometimes. Only when I feel like I can answer a question will I try to answer a question.

But looking back... I've answered a grand total of five questions this year, and eight last year. Those don't hold a candle to my '18 or '17 campaigns, and even then...I feel like only 92 answers on a site that I've been a member of since late 2012 is pretty...pathetic. That averages out to something between 11-13 answers a year.

The real issue is that I'm finding it difficult to answer the questions being posed. Do I want to really hunt down what specific music piece is playing in this anime on this episode between the 5 and 6 minute mark, or do I want to answer something better? Obviously I want to answer something better but I'm clearly not finding it here.

Do you engage in Meta more often than on the main site?

I think it's mixed. I do show up on Meta "often" but I also show up on the main site about as often.

Do you still find it worthwhile to ask new questions, or do you now not bother because it would not be as interesting to know the answer (because it's something trivial or not that important and you can live just fine without knowing the answer)?

I may have answered this earlier, but I feel like it would be more worthwhile to ask questions if I could be reasonably assured that there was more than one or two people that heard of some of the series I was referencing, and would be willing to engage in a Q&A about it.

Would you rather (and do you) talk about anime/manga/VNs/games in a free format (chat/forum) than engage in Q&A activities?

Funnily enough, Torisuda's answer was eye-opening on this. It's something I've kept tucked away in the back of my head for years now, but seeing it laid so bare and out in the open made me realize that the kinds of discussions I want to really have about anime and manga can't happen in a Q&A format.

I won't mince words here - I originally came from Stack Overflow and I've been over-indoctrinated in how that site works. The problem is that the same pattern does not exist and cannot exist for non-technical sites, since we're not really trying to ask questions - we're trying to have discussions. To be fair, I was probably one of those reviewers trying to shut down things that weren't really in a Q&A format.

I'm starting to regret that now. We had a chance to form a community based around what we wanted early on as opposed to fitting our shape into Stack Exchange's mold.

I may be seeking a more free-form environment to engage since I really do value anime as a passion. I'm starting to consume less and less of it - and subconsciously I suspect that it's because I want to use it as a way to seed more interesting questions here, and I'm finding that hard to do or even desirable to do at this point.

Do you think in recent years fewer question-worthy works have been produces in the anime and manga space which led to the expected result of fewer questions being asked?

No, there's been plenty of interesting and diverse works that have had questions.

It's not that the works themselves are without question or don't have an audience asking questions, we're just not doing anything to capture or welcome that audience here. To further complicate things...if we're talking about just manga, then there's a really really strong chance that we won't be able to have conversations about a lot of them. I hate to say it, but compared to the scanlations works that are going on and the actual series that have been serialized and distributed for mainstream production, and given our reasonable rule about not offering any links to pirated works, we're effectively snuffing a large portion of people who actually do consume this material and want to ask questions on it because it's not legal.

Or do you think that over the years of experience watching and reading, you have come to understand Japanese culture and anime/manga industry background more, so that you usually can figure out the answer to your questions on your own, and so asking (or posting a question and the answer) does not seem worthwhile to you?

Ironically, I've just completed two semesters of basic Japanese for the sake of consuming media from Japan, and while I feel pretty good about that, it does seem like a hollow goal. Am I only just learning Japanese so I can reference original Japanese material without fear of getting called out for sourcing something pirated, or do I really want to learn the language and culture? I feel it's more the latter, and in recent months I've been more engrossing myself in the culture and the language itself rather than just aiming it to be about anime and manga. I don't think that the question or answer piece matters much at that point since, at that instant, I have the ability to figure things out for myself and I can find different communities and areas to pull insight from as opposed to Stack Exchange.

Do you think posting trivial facts about minor mysteries would not be a worthy addition to the site's list of questions and so you often choose to not post these types of questions?

I don't think they're worthy so I wouldn't bother adding them. If it's Googleable in about 5 seconds, then I'd really rather not bother.

How do you think this site could benefit from (more or different) user interaction?

I think we're stuck.

We don't have a convenient means for people to engage with the community-at-large to talk about series or discuss things that are more nuanced than a simple question and answer.

It doesn't matter who we bring on or who we attract; that limitation exists so long as we're on Stack Exchange.

Would it go too far out of scope of the Q&A site's purpose and/or introduce too much responsibility for the moderating part of the community?

Unquestionably, yes.

Do you think we need more of the same activity?

No, since the kind of activity we are getting right now isn't the activity we want, when to be fair we haven't shown examples of what we've actually wanted in the past.

Do you think we should find new interesting ways to engage old and new users? Perhaps going out of the limited scope of just questions and answers? Something we could do in chats or revitalize the group anime watching sessions?

Commitment and dedication have to exist for that to happen. I worry that we're all so far detached from what we had several years ago that we're not going to be able to reach the older users. To further complicate that, if we don't have support from Stack Exchange Inc. in this mission, then we're burning tons of energy. I don't use software or hardware systems without some level of support, and I feel like I should hold my communities to that same standard.

What are your thoughts on related forms of entertainment and how do you think they could be introduces more into this community?

I feel like we've been very accepting of visual novels, manga and anime from China and Korea, and some American produced anime-style cartoons as well. The problem is that no one's really asking about those things.

How would you like to have fun spending time with other people interested in anime, manga and related entertainment?

I'm weird about my anime; I like to consume it in isolation and in peace. I like to engage with others if I have questions or if I want to talk about a plot point that I think comes up during the show, but that's about the extent of it. The problem is that I want to talk, not just ask questions.

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Had an anime question that even google image search couldn't answer. Figured I'd try here before movies and TV.

I tried to use keywords that would help others with the same question find my post so the answers wouldn't just help me. Thus helping the site build a knowledge base.

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I started browsing this site in 2013 and stopped regularly using it last year, for a mix of reasons. I did not consume as much anime and manga as I did in the past; questions about series that I knew well stopped appearing as much, so there wasn't much for me to answer; and posts about series that interested me were uncommon to begin with. It is not a question of whether or not I know enough about animanga or even Japanese culture now to know the answers to my questions: my questions are generally about plot and language. I still come to the site periodically to browse the front page and the review queue, but invariably, nothing interesting comes up. I visit Meta even less: presumably because I am rarely on the Anime & Manga SE, I do not know to check Meta because I do not see posts when they are featured, which have generally been what prompts me to visit. I did not even know that there was a move to ban music ID requests until this week, when I visited Meta for something else. (As to the discussion about the ban, while I understand that music ID requests are often low quality, I will probably also visit and engage even less if or when that is implemented. I browse music ID requests occasionally because they can be answerable with a bit of work, even without knowledge of the series, and sometimes involve classical music, a topic which I know relatively well and find interesting.)

The shift in my interests aside, I think there is a place for the SE format in discussions about animanga. While relatively literary discussions (and in general, those about subjective topics, like writing or probably even relationships) generally are not suited for SE, I like that the site is relatively organized, in that repeat questions are generally closed as duplicates and linked, and that the writing generally avoids a certain kind of excessive speculation and indulgence, unlike that in other internet communities for certain series. (See this Tumblr post that came up when I wanted to find information about how characters are addressed in Fullmetal Alchemist for an example of what I mean.) I tend to view this site as more a place for questions about cultural context, language, and plots, rather than serious literary discussions. This is also a result of how I consume animanga: I am generally looking for entertainment, rather than something to potentially analyze. For people who do consume animanga with such intentions, the format will be a bigger issue.

In my case, I am obviously a lost cause, being someone who moved onto consuming other media. If I were not, however, more of the same activity—the questions about One Piece and Naruto and identifying music—would definitely not encourage me to participate more on the site. At the same time, I do not have a particularly good idea of what would revitalize the site.

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