10th anniversary of shiga-ken.com

10annshiga

We are marking the 10th anniversary of shiga-ken.com in 2015. It was 10 years ago in February 2005 when I first registered the shiga-ken.com domain name. Later that year, I started this shiga-ken.com Website.

Two main things that spurred me were a digital camera and Wikipedia. I was already seriously traveling around and photographing Shiga from 2003 when I bought my first digital SLR camera. Two years later, I decided that I had enough material to start a Shiga-dedicated site.

From fall 2004 to spring 2005, I was quite active writing Japan travel articles at Wikipedia which was really getting popular. I was happy to see English articles (even stubs) about obscure places in Shiga and was determined to flesh them out with text and photos.

I was prepared to contribute (donate) a substantial collection of my Shiga photos to Wikipedia. However, I soon realized that the time and effort I spent on Wikipedia were going to waste as other Wikipedia writers/editors started to change or delete perfectly good text/information that I had written. The images I added sometimes also got replaced by someone else’s images. But that’s how Wikipedia worked.

I therefore concluded that contributing to Wikipedia was a waste of time and effort. Why work on someone else’s project when I could well make it my own project? So I suspended my activities at Wikipedia and decided to create my own site dedicated to Shiga. Something way better than Wikipedia’s Shiga articles and something which I had total control over. It was a very wise decision for me. I felt much more motivated when it was my own project.

When I took a good look at Shiga, I felt overwhelmed by the vastness of Shiga, not only in terms of land area, but also in the number of sights, places, festivals, crafts, history, and culture. I knew it would take a long time to see and photograph everything (if that were possible). But I was in it for the long haul and decided that it was worth it.

So little by little, I visited new places whenever I could, uploaded photos, wrote articles, etc. And at the end of every year, I would have a significant amount of content added to my site compared to the beginning of the year. It was great fun to discover/rediscover Shiga. I was just amazed at how interesting it was wherever I went. The scenery, the history, the relics, etc., etc.

When you start any collection, you soon become addicted to expanding it. In my case, it was images and later videos. The first Shiga photos I uploaded was the Yokaichi Odako Giant Kite Festival. Many thousands of images followed in the 10 years since.

Going hand-in-hand with all the content I was creating and uploading was the dazzling development of all the technologies that made it possible. Digital cameras were in a heated pixel race, ever increasing the picture quality, with new and improved models coming out at a wallet-breaking pace. Video cameras also came of age. Videos stored on a hard disk instead of tape made it super easy to copy them to a computer. The video format also changed from SD to HD and Full HD with household TVs switching to wide screens. Very exciting developments in video technologies this past 10 years.

The startup of YouTube was also revolutionary. To have a place to store and show your videos online was a real boon. I jumped on YouTube in 2006. Although the initial video length limit was 10 min., it was eventually extended to 15 min., 30 min., and now almost unlimited. I can now make a full-length movie and post it on YouTube.

I wish all this happened a lot sooner, like before I was born. Oh the magic moments I could’ve and would’ve captured if I had all these tools during childhood.

To mark this 10th anniversary, I’ll be rolling out a few new features starting with the completely redesigned home page. It’s now geared for touchscreens and mobile devices. This Shiga News blog is also geared for touchscreens and mobile devices. Hope you like it.

If you use a desktop computer, you might prefer the old home page design which I will retain as a Site Map here.

Introducing Shiga Headlines on Twitter

Happy to announce that I’ve finally opened a Twitter account for shiga-ken.com. It’s called Shiga Headlines and anybody can read my tweets (Twitter posts) without joining Twitter.

Shiga Headlines is my microblog for quick and short posts (140 characters or less) about Shiga Prefecture (news from mainstream media), shiga-ken.com updates (What’s New), and my Shiga activities. I will be tweeting (posting) things of interest that are too short for Shiga News and things I want to post right away. It will be mainly in English, and sometimes Japanese. (I can say a lot more in Japanese since it uses fewer characters than English.)

Twitter is good for news headlines, notices, announcements, and tidbits. It will complement my Shiga News blog very well because it will fill in the need for quick and short news items. I’ve already installed a Twitter widget (box) on the home page and Shiga News blog where you can read my tweets side-by-side with Shiga News posts.

Shiga Headlines will be dedicated to short and snappy posts while Shiga News will continue to have longer and more detailed posts. Content-wise, Shiga Headlines will be quite different from Shiga News and you will end up reading both.

You can read Shiga Headlines in the following ways:

You can also access this blog post to see my tweets in the embedded box (widget) below.

For those of you new to Twitter, here are a few things to know:

  • Twitter is a free microblogging service based in San Francisco, California. It’s a microblog because the posts can only be 140 characters or less. That’s only one or two typical-length English sentences (as you can see above).
  • Posts to Twitter are called “tweets” which appear in a timeline. The most recent tweets appear at the top. The Twitter timeline can be read on the Twitter Web page or in a Twitter widget box embedded in any Web site.
  • A hashtag is a word or phrase prefixed by the # symbol. It is used to group tweets together. So in my tweets, you may see #nagahama, #hanabi, etc. When you click on or search for a hashtag, tweets having the same hashtag will appear in the results.
  • When a tweet includes a link, the link will look abbreviated or incomplete because Twitter shortens it automatically. But it is still a valid link that you can click on.
  • Although you need not open a Twitter account to read people’s public tweets, you do need a Twitter account to write a reply to tweets.
  • You don’t have to click on “Follow” to read a person’s public tweets. Anybody can access Twitter and read people’s tweets without registering. People can also read tweets in Twitter widgets embedded on Web sites.
  • Thus, you don’t need to have “followers” to have an audience for your tweets. The audience for Shiga Headlines will mainly be people who visit shiga-ken.com and Shiga News rather than Twitter followers.
  • Having followers enhances the social networking of your tweets since followers can retweet/repost your tweet in their timeline or mark tweets as a “favorite.” But the number of followers does not accurately reflect the size of your audience.
  • Twitter also enables you to easily archive all your tweets which you can save locally on your computer. This is not possible with Facebook.
  • If you don’t have a Web site where you can embed a Twitter widget or if you’re using only Twitter to deliver content, then your followers will be your main audience. But you’ll never know how many of your followers are actually reading your tweets. A lot of people are overly obsessed with their number of followers, FB friends, Likes, subscribers, etc. Don’t fall victim to this numbers game and other silliness of social networks. Be more obsessed with content quality and how useful and helpful you can be to others.

Twitter is just another viable method to deliver timely online content for everyone. You can be sure that I would never use it for pointless babble.

Google Map of Kusatsu now online

I’ve finally created an annotated Google Map of Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture in English. The major places of interest have been marked on the map. The sidebar lists them in alphabetical order (except for train stations and city hall which appear at the top of the list). Kusatsu was the only city left for which I didn’t have a map. I now have annotated Google Maps in English for all of Shiga’s cities and towns. Also, I’ve incorporated short URLs for all of the Google Maps. You can see them on the shiga-ken.com home page under Maps.

Google Map for Kusatsu: http://goo.gl/maps/zFVsQ

My apologies to people and visitors in Kusatsu for the delay in making this map. When I first started making Google Maps years ago, the Japan maps still didn’t have English place names. We also couldn’t rearrange the order of the annotated places in the sidebar. The map URLs were also very long. Due to such limitations, my initial attempts to create Google Maps were rudimentary and less motivated. I knew that improvements had to come sooner or later, so I waited. Now that these problems have been resolved, I will be adding more places to the maps to make them more useful. I know that there is a demand when I see thousands of views for each map I have created. The annotations are also linked to my Web site with thumbnail images and links to my photo albums.

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