Is it Instagram-izing or not?

On Rebun Island
On Rebun Island

Taking these photos was a lot of fun, and I like them quite a bit as standalone visuals.

View from Mount Moere
View from Mount Moere
Black and white
Black and white
Dynamic flying
Dynamic flying
Accompaniment
Accompaniment

Still, I’m very ambivalent about them.

You see, these photos were taken with the art filter functionality of the Olympus PEN E-PL3. Trying not to be an Instagram photo while applying a built-in part of my camera? It seems so silly.

On one hand, if Instagram-ish photos was what I wanted, my iPhone is in my jacket pocket. On the other hand, maybe the over-saturation (ha!) of Instagram photos in everyday life has numbed my ability to appreciate the texture of these images.

I’m fairly certain that the instant gratification of “special” digital effects can and will, in the long run, become a roadblock to becoming better at taking photos.

Am I over-thinking it?

Producing bilingual content for the AQ blog

People ask me all the time how AQ handles having an English blog and Japanese blog. Oh wait, they don’t… they just read articles in their language. Last year, we decided that the two language versions of the AQ site do not need to be mirrored. There can be content that exists only in one language. There can be content that’s similiar but is introduced from a different angle. And of course, there can be content that’s more or less a word for word translation.

In this article, I’ll explain the implications of this approach, at different levels of blogging.

Chris, power blogging in the darkness of the night
Chris, power blogging in the darkness of the night

At system level

This philosophy was baked in at the system level when we re-factored our website in Spring 2011. The two blogs are actually two different installations of WordPress, connected by a nifty PHP script that maps different bits of content.

If the page exists in the other language, it will show up. If not, the user will be redirected to the top page of that section, with an unobtrusive dropdown message. The mappings are added manually through a custom browser interface.

When we abandoned the idea that the two languages were two halves of a coin, we also changed the system on a fundamental level.

No longer does the site feel broken when one clicks the language switcher and is given an error page that says the page “is missing or hasn’t been translated yet”. The influence on our mindset as content producers is bigger than you would expect.

At content planning level

When someone has the idea for a blog article, we will ask “does this article work in the other language?”

If it’s a heavy duty article that takes more than a few days to draft, we definitely want it in both languages. An article that’s meant to spark the interest of our Japanese audience might become Japanese only, if it requires extensive re-writing to make it work as an English article. If we know that there will be a bigger impact if published at a certain time, we will prioritize that language.

The potential impact of the article and the availability of resources at that moment will define the how and when of content creation.

Is that the ideal approach to the planning of content creation? Of course not, but for a small company with very limited resources for blogging, it’s the realistic way. Roll with the punches, but smartly so.

At content production level

It’s usually pretty easy to tell if what you’re reading is a translation or not. For an article to feel “translated” is acceptable for a web-related opinion piece, since so much of the ideas and terminology stems from the English speaking world. For a report about one of our events to feel “foreign” is less okay.

As the one responsible for coordinating, editing and WordPressing translated content, I can tell you one thing:

It’s a much smoother process when the “translation editor” is invested in the content production.

Don’t take a conveyer belt approach to translation. It’s not the last step of content production but another beginning, and for both the writer and the translation editor to feel that way influences the quality of the article in the second language.

At content promotion level

This is an easy one. We definitely talk about the articles differently.

Different language, different audience, completely different context!

It’s only recently that we’ve begun to operate Twitter accounts in both languages, so that’s been quite the lesson in different messaging for the very different audiences.

Going back to my opening remark about people reading only reading articles in their language: That’s the way it should be, and if they never give a second thought about the other language, I’ve done my job.

Tokyo Art Beat at Pecha Kucha
Tokyo Art Beat at Pecha Kucha

Three very different collaborative spaces in Tokyo

It feels like there’s a new co-working space opening up in Tokyo every week! It’s quite an exciting trend and even though I didn’t purposely seek it out, I happened to visit three collaborative spaces, all in the space of a week.

  • Terminal
  • Tokyo Hacker Space
  • co-lab Nishiazabu

Terminal

Terminal in Harajuku is the new, cool kid on the block. It’s basically a very nice 24hr Internet cafe with no stalls, with the same type of loose membership system that requires a physical card. You can get wifi, comfortable seats, free refills for great coffee and soft drinks, electricity outlets at every table, and hot paninis (600JPY).

Terminal
Terminal

Its launch was brilliantly executed:

  • a teaser site that got a lot of Twitter love from the Tokyo creative community
  • a great opening party
  • masterful copywriting that piggybacks on the nomad working boom
  • pre-mentions and reviews on the right sites

There’s an event space on the first floor. It just was a stripped down, skeleton space when I was there, but I can imagine some exciting events being held there.

Tokyo Hacker Space

I’ve been curious about this space ever since hearing about it at Bar Camp last year. Paul and I hopped over to join the weekly Open Meeting.

Interestingly enough, it’s a “real” house in a quiet, residential neighborhood. There was no signage and we spent a good five minutes peering into houses and glaring at Google Maps.

Tokyo Hacker Space
Tokyo Hacker Space

I say this with the upmost respect – this was the geekiest place I’ve ever been in! It’s a fabulous example of community building; a dynamic atmosphere that’s filled with mutual respect and joy in helping to bring each other’s projects to life.

The focus of the Space fluxes depending on its residents. Currently, there’s a strong hardware focus because Safecast is camped out there, building radiation sensors for deployment around Fukushima prefecture.

co-lab Nishi Azabu

co-lab Nishi Azabu
co-lab Nishi Azabu

co-lab is a series of collaborative spaces around Tokyo. It’s probably the largest and most established of creative, co-working spaces in Tokyo, and one that’s dear to my heart since Tokyo Art Beat used to be headquartered at the Sanbancho office for a few years.

Purely by chance, the Nishi Azabu building is a 60 second walk from the current AQ/TAB office.

The Nishi Azabu space also hosts furniture giant Kokuyo‘s incubation center for their inhouse designers, called “KREI open source studio”. This brings a much stronger corporate flavor to the space, although there doesn’t seem to be a natural mixing of the KREI people and co-lab residents.

The underground salon area, which is where the non-permanent residents can work, turns into a wonderful event space. We dropped by a talk event organized by the ticketing service Peatix, in co-lab’s underground event space.

Underground space for co-lab Nishi Azabu
Underground space for co-lab Nishi Azabu