Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Writing this on a plane returning home to San Francisco from a weekend back in my hometown, I'm feeling contemplative about where I "exist" and how I connect with people I care about. Like probably everyone, I have my own rituals, reminders and rules for trying to keep up-- on family, on friends, on my projects, on information (Damn you, Google Reader! You are both a boon and a CURSE). Hand-in-hand with all that jazz, I've been thinking about Same Hat and what role "community" should play in our site.

At this point, I've been writing Same Hat for more than 2.5 years and our traffic is beefier than I ever imagined it'd get. But, we're not a huge site by any measure. Through the blog, I've been able to make some awesome IRL friends and exchanged emails and passed on reading recommendations with similar-minded weirdos. We've also gotten hooked up with a wild bunch of cartoonists, writers and artists from around the world, and in some cases introduced these people to eachother; The latest and best example being the badass T-shirt collaboration between master shirtmaker David (SEIBEI) and comix demigoddess Hellen Jo, which debuted recently at Renegade SF and will be on sale online as soon as David is back from Europe.

Despite all this, I'm not sure that Same Hat or its readership is quite hefty enough to sustain a forum just yet. I'd love to have a place to dish with everyone, but nothing is more depressing and hideous as running a ghost town forum with no posts (except by the moderator, sometimes under fake names desperately attempting to seed threads). The best stand-in for a forum in the meantime is the comments, and I'm sure I can speak for all the regular readers when I say thanks to the hardcore folks leaving updates, questions and links for us all to check out. The comments seriously make my day and often lead me off on crazy hyperlink goose chases for even more stuff to read up on. You guys are awesome.

So what should come next? I've been talking to Evan about a project to tackle after Electric Ant #1 is final-fucking-ly finished, and before we start work on the next book (oh shit!)... The plan is to finally migrate over to samehat.com, which I've been squatting for over a year while being too lazy to build a proper site. In the meantime, I wanna get started with what is the first Same Hat community project, something I plan to turn into its own section of the new site. Without further ado, let me invite you to take part in...

The Guide (or um...SHGTE) is an open and editable Google Map, detailing any and all spots of interest to rabid Same Hat geeks.

View Larger Map

Anyone can participate and edit any entry, and anywhere in the world is fair game for inclusion. The only requirement is that you sign in with a Google Account (your gmail or blogger username, etc) so that it knows to attribute your entry to you.

If you haven't used the Google Maps My Maps feature, it's basically a way to create custom maps by pinpointing specific spots (think: The Kazuo Umezu Makoto-chan house), insertings overlays (think: A scanned floorplan to the Nakano Broadway mall's shops) or drawing custom routes and shapes (think: A walking tour of Brooklyn or Berlin, hitting the best comic and used-book stores in a neighborhood).

You can choose the icon associated with each entry you add, and Google provides pre-made icons to denote shops, train stations, and shopping. Evan and I also whipped up a few Same Hat icons for Sentai toy shops and Umezu, Maruo and Kago-related hot spots. You are also totally and completely welcome to add your own custom icons as well!

So, what should you add to the map? I envision this map to be in partially a guide to Japan for visitors heading over, and partially a repository of local tips from where you like to hang out. I've started adding things to San Francisco, Tokyo and Kansai to seed some ideas on formatting. If you need some tips on writing entries, I strongly recommend Schutlz's Tokyo Damage Report Guide to Tokyo, which is some of the funniest and smartest guide writing online.

With the SHGTE, the focus isn't on duplicating the work of others, but thinking about what your fellow readers would have in common with you and wanna know about; Basically what is the shit you'd send in an email to a friend going to that/your city for the first time? Some ideas include:
+ The best manga shops in Sao Paolo
+ A custom doll shop and gallery in Akihabara that displays Suehiro Maruo's paintings
+ The Osamu Tezuka museum (and the train route to get there from Kyoto)
+ A club with a monthly gothic lolita cosplay night in Athens
+ The restaurant in Kichijoji where you spotted Demerin out eating soba and playing gameboy

I won't be moderating the map per se, but might remove wildly off-topic or spam entries or fix formatting on confusing text. Otherwise,I leave it to you guys to play with and fill up. There is now a link on the sidebar ,and I plan on adding a few spots a day as we build the site. This is OUR resource, and I'm geeked to benefit from you sharing the wealth.


If you have any questions about how to use the map or suggestions on how to improve it, leave them here! After SDCC I'm planning to roll out Same Hat community feature #2.

[UPDATE]: I've posted a brief "How-To" on adding stuff to the map here.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I love the SHGtE idea - just in time for me to move over to Japan, too. A new book, too? It's just raining good news.

Unknown said...

How do you add things to the map? I'm having a hard time figuring Google Maps out. I already have an account, so you just need to tell me where are the magical buttons. ;)

myrto said...

Cool idea, specially for all the like minded weirdos planning a trip to Tokyo and looking for all the cool places (I know I had a hard time with that).

But...NEW BOOK???
what's that all about??

Ryan S said...

@johnny: Thanks for helping out with The Guide! The idea came about after using it on a smaller scale to recommend shops to a friend for their first trip to Kansai. I'd love to see your favorites on the map once you land in Japan.

@jofivigo: When you're looking at the map, there should be an "EDIT" button on the left navigation, by the text describing what the map is all about. Once you click EDIT you'll see new option on the map for adding spots, or drawing shapes, etc. You can also click any entry on the list to make additions to it. I'll post a few screenshots and HOW-TO later today :)

@myrto: Thanks for the support! It was some of your suggestions over email that helped me to start thinking about community finally. I hope to help folks like us with planning their first Japan trips, and have local shops highlighted too. I know for me, I had never heard about Nakano Broadway mall until my 5th trip to Japan... I wish I had heard about it earlier!

Regarding the new book. Unfortunately, no comment yet. It's not yet a "done deal" but we're talking to some people. I really really hope it works out-- more later as we can talk about it.

GODSPILL said...

This is pretty cool!
I go to Japan every year and this would be a nice way to find more interresting stuff.

Dom said...

Hey. Just wanted to say that I've only just discovered your site, but it's a breath of fresh air. I've been reading manga for 15 years, but have always found it difficult to find a alternative slant on things. Keep it up (as if you wouldn't).

Anonymous said...

Awesome idea

Anonymous said...

I know I hardly comment (i think i've done it once or twice but probably used different names or something)
but just wanted to say that if you DO ever have a SameHat forum, I would probably post alot.. I'm big on forums..not so much on blog commenting I guess. I would LOVE if a forum happened though..
SameHat is one of the best places I've found for things..relevant to this specific interest of mine..
There are alot of stuff online for general anime and manga but I haven't found much sites dedicated to of the awesome horror/guro/etc. stuff that I'm so drawn to.. nor a good community for it..but aw I love SAME HAT

and the SHGTE idea is amazing!