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Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008
JAPAN TIMES BLOGROLL
The Blog from Another Dimension
The Blog from Another Dimension might conjure up images of science fiction, but click through to Luis Poza's blog and you'll quickly see that it's about the here and now, cataloging his thoughts about current events, technology and social issues in Japan.
A professor of English and Computer Science at Lakeland College Japan in Tokyo, Poza has lived 18 years in Japan and since August 2003, he has faithfully updated his blog every day. While he does often write about his immediate surroundings (found in the blog's Focus on Japan category), the content of his posts doesn't stop there. For example, in the past he has posted entries related to the war on terror, and recently he's been following the progress of the U.S. presidential primaries.
Unlike many of his blogging peers, Poza doesn't supplement his income with ads. He says that moneymaking was never his goal. The blog began as a medium of self-discipline. Over time, though, he says it's opened doors to new things and people and inspired him to "reach out." Maybe it should be re-titled Blog to Another Dimension.
How long have you had this blog and what prompted you to start it?
Before blogging, I was engaged in debate forums. I would find myself spending many hours a day posting long missives on topics like gun control, abortion, religion, constitutional law and politics. But such forums are bogged down with people who won't return effort or discipline in kind; your hard work is dismissed by people who would do nothing more than regurgitate propaganda from biased sources, demanding you give more and more yet deliver little or nothing themselves. It gets to be tiring, and all too soon, all that work would get buried in the deluge of new posts and threads.
I started blogging in 2002, in the run-up to the Iraq War. I felt like writing on the issues of the day, and was not yet aware of software packages like Movable Type or WordPress that could automate things for you. So I reserved the "blogd" domain, and wrote blog posts, publishing them by writing the entire code for the page by hand. It was too much effort after a while, but after I found the automated software in April 2003, I had another crack at it — and haven't looked back since. I started non-stop daily blogging on Aug. 2, 2003.
You've blogged daily for 4 1/2 years. What motivates you to maintain your blog day in and day out?
I have always written the blog for myself. Entertaining others is a concern, but a secondary one. I write what I feel like, on topics that appeal to me. I originally blogged a few times a week, but wanted to bring more structure into my life. Blogging every day was a conscious decision to become more disciplined; if I could blog every day, I could do other things with more regularity and direction. Most often, my blog posts are equivalent to writing a short essay every day.
Has the blog had a big influence on your life?
Yes, in that it has helped bring the focus I was looking for. It also gives me the impetus to read and discover more than I would have, to reach out to and speak to more people I ever have before, and sometimes have more interesting things happen. A favorite author, John Varley, once stopped by and said hello. A college professor in Texas used one of my posts in a college reader. A marketing firm looking to create netroots word-of-mouth sent a free DVD set I would have had to buy otherwise. CNN and other media outlets have made references to me, like you're doing now. Nothing huge, but it can be fun sometimes.
Unlike a lot of Japan-based bloggers, you don't only write about Japan. Was this a conscious decision?
That decision was one of desire and convenience. I wanted to talk about more than just one thing; living in Japan presented one topic to discuss. Politics and social issues were my primary themes, but not the only ones. Had I limited myself to one topic, it would have been much more difficult to blog every day.
What past posts have gotten the most feedback?
Strangely enough: eyelid twitching. My blog has become the Mecca of Eyelid Twitchers . I first posted just that I had a twitching eyelid for a while; that drew lots of visitors. I then posted on how many visitors came to that post — and that drew even more visitors. I finally posted an article that had more useful information on the topic, and that post draws thousands of visitors every month, who have now left 1,500 comments on the malady. You never know what people will be drawn to.
Many bloggers are using text ads to generate to revenue. Did you make a conscious decision not to?
That's correct. I don't like ads, not even text ads so much. Some people decide to make money from their sites. That's never been my intent with this blog. It's more an exercise, a catharsis and a hobby.
You're blogging a lot of about the U.S. elections and are up-front about your party affiliations. How do you think blogs can be used as political tools?
In just about any way you want. That's the beauty of the Internet — as an information forum, a marketplace for ideas, the potential is just about limitless.
As a veteran blogger, do you see blogging in general evolving into something else? Where would you like to see it go?
Blogs are an extension of the basic principle of the Internet: free and far-reaching speech. It is much more important and revolutionary than most people realize. Before the Internet, if you wanted to reach more than a few dozen people with a message, you had no choice but to appeal to people of wealth or power who had control over the only means of mass communication: books, newspapers, magazines, radio and television. They could block or limit your speech for any reason or bias they wished. With the Internet, for the first time in human history, anyone can relate any message to vast audiences, limited only by the appeal of their message. Blogs are simply one of the early stages of evolution for this kind of communication.
Do you keep an eye on your blogging peers? Any favorites?
There are plenty of people blogging about Japan but personally what would you like to see more of?
Blogging is now so widespread that there is little shortage of blogging on just about any topic you can imagine.
Do you have advice for new or future bloggers, especially those blogging in Japan?
If your aim is to simply express yourself, then that's all you have to worry about. If you want a larger readership as well, then writing often helps a lot — people don't like reading blogs that rarely update. It also helps to attract readers through search engines; the more you write, the more there is for people to find. Focusing on one topic will attract some people, but leave out more; writing on a variety of topics leaves more material for you to write on, and will attract more readers. Also, make sure you write original, meaningful content; just linking or presenting outside material is not enough.