Research Reflections, a Year Later

The J-Sub Experiment is a research endeavor. We look at things, analyze them, share our findings, listen to what others have to say, record that data, and go look at new things, allowing the cycle to continue.

We’ve been at this for over a year, and really we only got going with any real moment around June of last year. Nevertheless, a lot has happened and a lot has changed.

We have always pledged to be transparent with our audience; and we believe that now is a good time just to touch base with all of you.

Objections

Naturally, we are constantly on the lookout for people who are objecting to what we say, no matter the nature of the objection.
Only 1 person has consistently objected to what we have said. And this person is consistently correct in their objections, which are basically minor things and oversights on our part.
We also had 1 person catch on to an error we made when talking about a phoneme.

Our theories have developed slowly over time. If you read what we’ve written from day 1 to now, we contradict each other on quite a few points. Nobody has brought this up, which does not necessarily mean that nobody has noticed, just that nobody has seen it worthwhile to bring it to our attention to clarify. We hope that this is because we’ve done a good job showing an organic changing of our position— demonstrating why we’d believe one thing a one point and why we believe something else at another.

Growth

We have changed blog names and changed themes; but the number of growth has remained generally the same, with only a slight increase in recent weeks. We gain on average 3 followers per day. Our new followers do not necessarily interact (like and reblog) with our material on a regular basis. Those who interact frequently with our posts are about 3% of our total followers, which are 1102 people.

On dontcallmesensei, when we only posted semi-personal things, we gained 81 followers from June 2016 to December 2016. From December 2016 to January 2017, we’ve gained 111 followers, in large part due to that blog hosting the Daily Japanese Study Units.

Interactions

We call “interaction” anything involving us asking or inviting our audience to send us asks, answer surveys, or anything that requires a response.

Our main project that required a response was our survey, which was overall a failure, although we thank everybody who contributed and we do have that information recorded and it has been helpful. At that time we had close to 1000 followers and we got 23 responses.

We have also posted ask games on dontcallmesensei before December, which nobody participated in.

We even asked people if they wanted to see us play a video game for a few minutes and nobody asked us for the link.

Our Patreon, which we provide links to in our Daily Study Units and are on our main blog, is not doing well. We have one $1 pledge, which we are incredibly grateful for; and we do remain optimistic that we will be able to turn this around. (And in case anybody is wondering, this isn’t something we do on the side. This is our job and our yearly income is based on what we can do with the materials we produce for The J-Sub Experiment as a platform.)

Our Facebook page has 2 likes from people who are not our friends. Our Twitter has 1 follower from Tumblr. Our Instagram has 0 followers who are not our friends.

This information actually does not bother us who work on material as much as it does our associates, who see Internet platforms as, by default, personality based. We are not personality based. People are here for the Japanese resources. Clearly nobody cares who we are, what our day-to-day looks like, and that’s completely fine as long as people are responding well to the materials we work so hard to produce.

Our model doesn’t depend on this kind of interaction existing, and even when we do become more popular and we get more likes and follows and all that on other social media platforms, it will always be a very small percentage of our total audience.

Audience

If what people write on their blogs’ profiles are true, and if everybody who answered the survey did so truthfully, then we know that our average follower is female, in her 20′s, not from the U.S., white, and at a basic level of Japanese, but with some real basis.

The trait of most immediate importance for us is the level of Japanese. If only people who were very advanced in their Japanese studies were reading our material, then that would indicate that people at the lower levels found us too complicated or confusing or at any rate not helpful. That is thankfully not the case. We imagine that beginners do not understand everything, but there is enough that they can get from it that they can get something out of it.

Our most popular posts, and the ones that get the most notes, are sporadic runthrough posts (which we cannot explain) and the linguistic posts that focus on one thing. Our Hiragana and Katakana post and our Ending Particle post are both doing very well, probably due to the fact that they are themes people recognize quickly (as opposed to phonemics and morae).

Our Daily Japanese Study Units are being reblogged consistently by a small group of people, but generally have a similar number of notes (about 20). Study Unit 11 is the most popular, with 70 notes.

Reflections

The profile image of dontcallmesensei is 尻, which means “butt,” and nobody has pointed that in a very long time.

Lots of our followers like FMA:B, but nobody has expressed a reaction (good or bad) to the fact that our next runthrough will be from that show.

We find that interactions work better when we provide a public response. So someone sends an ask and we answer it publicly. We suspect that our survey would have worked better had we done that, but we wanted to keep all that information confidential, even when the asks were anonymous.

We have a sizable amount of Spanish-speakers. We’ve considering writing something on Japanese-Spanish Spanish-Japanese translation.

A large part of the linguistics-themed blogs on Tumblr are focused on the humanities side of the field (like sociolinguistics), as opposed to what we focus on which is more scientific (in the sense that we just look at data and try to account for it in a systematic way). We have not heard anything from that humanities side, which really is of little importance.

Our associates have asked us to incorporate our personality into the platform. (We did run a personality-based blog once that did well.) But we’re very hesitant to do so. Personalities that are popular with one audience are not necessarily popular with another. That’s what has happened here. We have bigger priorities than to create  a personality (a large part of Internet personalities are not actual personalities, even if they look natural) to cater to this specific audience. Further, we believe that our audience will be more appreciative of the honesty and transparency in the long run.

In our posts, we’ve been insistent on a number of points that contradict traditional Japanese instruction:
that adjectives in Japanese are very few;
that -na adjectives are just nouns;
that there aren’t two sets of verbs (u-verb and ru-verbs);
that various particles are actually indicating grammatical case;
that Kana-only texts are not helpful, even at the absolute beginner level.

Our Daily Study Units exist to show people that “expressions” are by and large just regular sentences on the syntactic level. (And “expressions” are the backbone of language textbooks.)

The fact that we say them so often and don’t have to double back on them (though the -na adjective thing is raising some questions, though they’re still nouns) makes us very happy; and what makes us happier is that people seem to see the logic behind it.

Conclusion (TL;DR): We are doing very well. We are not fighting an uphill battle against detractors. We have a growing audience. Our audience likes it when we focus on specific topics as well as our more instructional material. We do not have to compromise our linguistic perspective for any reason. If we do intend to grow and form something a bit more akin to a community, i.e. being able to interact with our audience in a mutually beneficial way, we will have to find a way to do that. That will be one of the big challenges of 2017.

We hope that this post serves as a testament to our transparency and honesty. Our values as a research endeavor and small business lie in respecting your privacy. We will never put a cookie on your browser to learn more about. We will never use marketing schemes to cheat you out of your money (and believe us, people have told us to.) Developing healthy communication is our job. Developing attractive products is our job. At the end of the day, this is about finding answers to big questions and serving each and every one of you.