Tentacle Armada is five years old today! Hooray! Time sure does fly right by. I don’t know of too many figure review sites that have been updated continuously for five years, and with 263 figure and doll reviews currently listed here, I don’t know of many that have been as prolific, either. I don’t often talk about the state of the site but today I indulge myself: as usual, this post is the post where I pontificate about where this website has been and where it is going.
On the website
Obviously not much has changed with respect to the site layout, and I don’t plan on making any major changes, apart from swapping out the “Eroge Reviews” link up at the top for a photography tutorial section. The posting schedule has slowed somewhat in the last year, with “only” 31 figure reviews having been posted since this site’s previous anniversary, but considering how many contemporaneous figure review websites have gone dormant in recent times, I don’t feel too badly about that.
In the past year, this site received 503,715 visits from 280,179 unique visitors, resulting in approximately 2,126,042 pageviews. I say approximately because one of my site plugins caused pageviews to be counted twice for about a month in November and December, so I’ve halved the pageview count for that duration. Total site stats look something like this:
The pageview count is inflated by about 200,000, so the total value should be more like 8.3 million.
Site stats fell off of a cliff and cratered hard compared to the previous year, mostly thanks to Google. Some time last year, they changed it so that clicking an image in Google Image search goes directly to the picture without loading the page as it used to; being that this site primarily serves up images, that change impacted the site stats hard. Personally, I think that’s rather lame, since hotlinking images has been considered poor internet etiquette since the dawn of graphical web browsers, but if Google wants to be evil, nobody can tell them to be otherwise.
After taking 40,000 or so photographs over the past five years, I think I’m comfortable with the sort of pictures I take. I tend to use the same lighting style over and over, and I’ve moved away from some of the more trite things that I used to do (unnecessarily tilting the camera, for instance). That’s not to say that there aren’t new things that I want to try out, but for the most part, I think I’m happy with my style.
That’s not to say that I’m happy with my pictures, though. One way in which I judge my photos is whether I feel satisfied enough to print them, and over the last five years, there haven’t been many of those. Of those 40,000 or so pictures, I like 27 enough to print. I haven’t done a comprehensive edit of my photos from 2013 to determine which ones I want to print, but I don’t expect to find more than two or three new candidates. I’m hoping to one day make a photobook of my work (the cover to a very early draft can be seen in the picture up at the top), but at this rate, I don’t expect to have enough photos to fill it for at least a few more years.
One thing that has changed is my motivation for taking photographs. Back in the early days of this site, I was highly concerned with making popular photos, and in gaining acclaim for my work. I uploaded my pictures to Tsuki-board and basked in satisfaction if and when they became the picture of the day. I monitored my picture hit counts with intensity. I groaned when I saw a picture of the day that I felt was subpar, clichéd, or otherwise terrible.
Over the last few years, I stopped caring about view counts and favorites. In fact, I stopped uploading my pictures anywhere but here. Now, my goal is to make pictures that I am proud of, and to see improvement in my work. Popularity doesn’t motivate me anymore, and I actively avoid things that pander to the crowd (to wit: cats, overly cute situations, and pictures taken outdoors, particularly near bodies of water or during sunrise or sunset). That’s not to say that I won’t ever submit my photographs to Tsuki-board or some other site for publishing, but I wouldn’t do it just to get hits. (On a related note, the popularity of the Obama doll that I occasionally use here sometimes bothers me for this reason. Although I like using it as a prop, and I do plan to use it – albeit with more judiciousness – in the future, I really do not want to be known mainly as the guy who takes funny pictures with the president doll; that runs counter to everything I want my photographs to be known for.)
I’m not a particularly civic-minded person, in real life or on the web, but I’ve noticed that even as the figure-collecting hobby has grown, it seems like the community has shrunk. Half my blogroll is dead, and I’ve pruned off a lot of sites that are no longer updated. While I’m not that involved in the community, one of the things I was hoping to do with my tutorial posts – particularly the lighting guide – was to foster a greater interest in photography, which would lead to a more active group of figure photographers. That goal was perhaps overly idealistic, maybe even naïve, being that I’m not sure whether that guide was all that helpful or not. Nonetheless, I’m hoping to roll out a few more, including the “My Pictures Suck and I Don’t Know Why” post that I’ve been thinking about for nearly a year now. Maybe I can’t spark a wave of interest in better figure photography, but helping even a few people get started would be satisfying enough.
While my interest in community is mostly ambivalent (aside from my own narrow advocacy of figure photography), I have nothing but disdain for social media, particularly when it is used for self-promotion. I’ve never hosted my Twitter feed here, nor do I ever plan to do so. However, my Twitter stream (or timeline or whatever it’s called) has been hugely boring over the last year or so, and so if anybody wants to contact me via that service, feel free to do so. Note that I don’t really like following people and I unfollow people purely on whim (some people take that as a complete and irreparable severing of relations; me, I see it more like leaving a room in which someone is talking too loudly).
On the future
As mentioned earlier, site updates have slowed down here, though that’s mainly due to laziness, a newfound interest in video games (primarily World of Warcraft), and a paralysis due to wanting to build individual sets for all the figures I photograph, which isn’t realistic and is something I’m going to have to get over, as the length of the review queue far exceeds absurdity. With some sites, a slowdown in posting activity heralds the death of the site, but if I ever lose interest in running Tentacle Armada, my plan is to just shut it down cleanly with one final post, rather than posting less and less frequently before quietly fading away. But I expect that that post is still a long way off; although I don’t know how long I’ll keep running this site, I don’t plan to stop anytime soon, and I think another five years would be quite nice.