Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Online Taiko Community

I was not present at the North American Taiko Conference Leadership Forum, but I heard from those who attended that one recurring theme in the small group discussions was an online forum for taiko players.

Eventually I caught Alan Okada (Soh Daiko) when he wasn't already chatting with someone, and let him know I was interested in being involved with the exploration of creating an online taiko community. He brought up some very basic, very important questions that should be considered before jumping into anything.

The idea of an online forum has been tried in the past, but gradually trickled out. There are a few forums out there--I know the collegiate groups have one, and there is a UK taiko forum as well. But, a forum can only exist if participants are active. How do we create an atmosphere that is inviting so it can live, thrive, and be useful?

On the other hand, someone mentioned to me that perhaps the great thing about NATC is the space that exists between its recurrence. Every 2 years hundreds of taiko players get together and have an immediate connection through the drums we all love. Would having an online community diminish the effect of this connection?

Certainly there are many opinions on this topic, and many more questions to ask. So, I wanted to start by asking your opinion.

Alan wondered if my blog was active with comments... To be honest, it's not very active here at all. If you feel this is important, please prove me wrong and leave your opinion in the comments below!

1. Are you interested in participating in an online taiko forum? If so, please tell me why and what you would hope to get from it or give to it.

2. Do you feel that having an online forum could have negative effects on the taiko community? Please explain.


  1. Carrie,

    I think that an online taiko community would be a great idea. While the taiko community does come together in a great way at NATC, it does appear to be a bit segmented geographically speaking. There's a bit of a gap, it seems, between groups on the West Coast and groups on the East coast (and if you're in between, good luck). An online community could help to bridge that gap. And would also be a good resource for players out there - help, event announcements, etc.

    I don't think it'd take away from the intimacy of NATC. After all, there's online discussion, and there's face to face discussion. It might even make NATC that much more important, as it would help to bring together who had been communicating electronically for those 2 years in between.

    As to whether there could be a negative impact, I really don't know. As you said, it all relies on participation. But the number of taiko-related blogs seems to be growing, and people have to be reading them, right? In regards to comments on your blog, personally I rarely comment on blogs, but tend to be more active on forums. Don't know why, really.

    Anyways, that's my two cents. I'd be interested in seeing an online taiko community develop, and would be willing to help somehow.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Carrie,

    I might not comment on here, but I read religiously, ever since I discovered your site! I love to see websites/blogs discussing Taiko (Wynn Yamami posted a good list of them )! However it'd be nice to have one main online community instead of many different websites.

    I agree with Ben on this one, that it'd be a good idea, and one that would help bring the already strong community together even better. I'm currently working on something to serve some of those purposes for the collegiate community... you can see the current site here. Basically the idea is that it will alongside the forums as a place for groups to post their information and events, so we can keep each other in the loop and facilitate contact between the groups.

    1. I would definitely participate, in fact I'd probably be up for helping work on it. I think it'd be a great resource for anyone in the community to network, share experiences, etc.

    2. A negative effect? I don't think so, but like Ben, I'm not really sure. I think we should talk first about what exactly we'd want the online community to achieve, and work toward those goals. If we have a clear purpose we can work toward, hopefully it won't fizzle out like the other things you mentioned.

    Matt T-W

  4. Hey Carrie
    I was sad I didn't get to go to the rest of the conference STI was so much fun! I was glad I got to meet everyone there though.

    Reg the online community,m I think it's a great idea. Where coming together once every 2 years is nice and fun to catch up with people, I think that staying in touch via e-mail, phone, etc. make meeting up that much better. I think that as far as helping eachother with dynamics, drills for the groups, etc. online is a great place to get that many more ideas and support.

    I agree with the rest of you, this wold be a great asset to the taiko community , the only negative I can see ifs lack of participation. But I think that was enough word and advertisement, and the many passionate people in the community , I think that it would take off.

  5. Lindsay, it was so nice to meet you last week!

    Thank you all so much for your comments. It's great to know there's an interest. I'm planning to connect again with Alan in the coming weeks to discuss more specifically how an online community might be developed and cultivated.

    In the meantime, do you have any thoughts on what elements of a forum invite continued participation? Certainly, communicating that the forum exists is important, but in my experience, people are more likely to post when a forum is already highly active and a dead forum tends to stay that way. Thoughts?

    Sorry to bring this up Matt, since it's from the comment you deleted, but what do you think is the reason you post on forums, but tend not to post on blogs? Is it because the expected role of the 'reader' is different, or something deeper?

    For those of you who indicated you might like to be directly involved in the process, or perhaps the upkeep of the site, please email me directly as I would love to discuss this with you further. Emailing me does not make you committed, so please don't hesitate.

    I think it's great to keep this conversation open as much as possible though. Please let others know whom you think might be interested in joining the discussion.

    Thank you!

  6. "What elements of a forum invite continued participation." Now THERE'S the million dollar question, one that pretty much every forum asks, I think. Obviously there's going to be a common interest - taiko - so that doesn't have to be taken care of. One thing, perhaps, is the presence of discussions that invite... well, discussion. With a blog, it's more like the author's thoughts, there for the readers to read. A forum discussion invites interaction, hopefully. You could have a weekly topic, something as easy as "What style do you teach beginners first: beta or naname? Why?" Everyone's going to have a different answer, and hopefully they'll be willing to discuss it. Once that gets started, then perhaps the rest - general chats, concert announcements, etc. - might follow.

    Of course, it's all a matter of how to START up the thing. As you said, it's easier to post once a forum is active.

  7. Carrie,

    Ben took the words out of my mouth.

    I also love the weekly topic idea for the young forums. Hopefully that'll help an active community of posters which will attract more people, etc etc.

    I think before it gets started, it's a good idea to talk to people about it and get on board. If the day you start, you already have 20-30 people committed to/excited about the forums, who have things to post, you shave alot of time off of the time it takes for adoption...


  8. I thought about doing this years ago, but I never had the know how and felt like it could wind up being more trouble than it's worth! But it could be done, if it's well-thought out before things go up.

    I've been on a lot of forums and message boards, from large ones like World of Warcraft to smaller, specialized ones with only a couple of dozen users.

    For me, it's about three things: information, the pros, and the cons.

    Information - It would be great to have a list of taiko groups and basic information, like year founded, leader (or leadership style), contact info, etc. A flash-based map where people could hover over an area and see what groups are there would be awesome.

    I would also love to see some of the same information I keep hearing given out @ TC on there, like which songs are public domain, how to approach other songs that are not, Oedo Sukeroku's stance on using/selling the slant stand, etc. etc.

    The Pros? A continually growing database and resource-finder. Have trouble with a technique? Post it on the forums and you're going to hear a lot of tips. A lot of taiko players are online and would be glad to give advice! Pictures, video linking, and announcements would be easy to post and access.

    The Cons. The taiko community is still pretty small. Arguments and controversial topics can and will come up, and how do we handle handles? Do people get to be anonymous? Do they have to identify themselves? Either way has dangers. Would it be for taiko players only? Maybe there would have to be registration and moderators, but that adds to the upkeep of the site.

    There are some great reasons why something like this should be started - but I believe we have to anticipate as much as possible the negatives and have plans in place so that we're not caught off-guard.

  9. @Rhythmyk - See here. Though that's only for collegiate groups. This could easily be done for professional/community groups as well though. Maybe even make them different colors based on type? >_< (just throwing out ideas here)

  10. used to have a rather comprehensive list, but since their site rehaul it's been listed as "Coming Soon." If it stays that way, than creating a new database would be a worthwhile effort, I think.

    As for Rhythmyk's cons, given the young nature of such a forum I'd think that a lassez-faire might be the best way to go about things. Sure, a moderator might be needed (may even be required, depending on the software), but given that it's a pretty specialized topic for a forum, probably the only people who'd want to join are those already involved (or wanting to be involved) in the taiko community. That'd probably help to... weed out, as it were, some of the elements that might be found in a more general forum. But of course, there's still going to be the occasional problem. That's the nature of the internet.

    As for registration vs. anonymity, I would think it might be good to make everything open to everyone, thus allowing anyone to participate. Still, it might be a good idea make it worth someone's while to register (yes, I know the typical registration process for a forum is rather short, but this is the internet, and people have short attention spans). Maybe only allowing registered people to edit certain information - if the forum and the main site (assuming they develop into two separate entites on the website) are separate, then linking one with the other might encourage registration. Using a content management system like Joomla, Geeklog, or Mambo might help such a thing, of course.

  11. I also like Ben's idea of possibly having a weekly topic to forumulate discussion. If discussion lulls, people become less likely to come back, but knowing there will be something new to think about every week can help retain participants during those times.

    I think requiring registration to participate could be an easy tool to keep track of who is represented on the forum. And, I always appreciate when a forum allows guests to read what's been posted--this makes it easier to decide if registering is worthwhile.

    I'm curious to know what you all think about requiring identification? Knowing who a person is will certainly affect how you view the information they post, right? Anonymity puts everyone on equal footing to a certain degree, but it's nice to know about someone's experience before we consider their advice. Should member profiles be included or does that make a simple idea more complicated than it should be?

    @mtwstudios I like the map you have set up for the collegiate groups. Thanks for suggesting it rhythmyk. Color coordinating professional/community groups would be a nice touch.

  12. @Carrie - In regards to identification, I think people should be allowed to put as much or as little as they choose. If they choose to register, it'd be nice to have a field in the member profile stating the group that they're with. That way, it can be the member's choice how much information they decided to disclose.

  13. I'm really torn about whether there should be either identification or anonymity, so why not the option for both?

    I think there should be some basic level of registration, but then also the option to post something anonymously when one wants to. So I can post as much as I want as Rhythmyk, but then if I have a question that I really don't want associated with me personally, I could post it as "anonymous".

  14. so here's just a couple of ideas, take em leave em whatever you please. On the note of topics, I think a weekly topic for discussion is great, if it's going into an over time really deep conversation, then open a forum to continue the topic. I take part in a weekly veterinary chat on Friday nights, sometimes I make it sometimes I dont, but the topic is always put in a message board forum later. I think things can range from techniques to dynamics to individual pieces etc. I think this is something that once it gets around that people will definately try to look into it. I think as a community we need to find or generalize a time that we can get the most activity from people.
    As far as ID goes, there are message boards that you are able to just type a name into and/or you have the option of creating a profile. If both are possible I think that makes it possible for people to keep any privacy for things they don't want associated with themselves or if they want to put it out there they have that option also. I think a moderator would be a neccessity. But as far as excluding people...
    I like to think that our taiko community is pretty open, the conference is a great example of this. Everyone from people who have an interest and newly playing to people who have been playing for decades are invited to join. Everyone comes together as one community taking pride and showing a love for taiko. When I think of an online community, I'd like to see it as an open place where all walks of life can come together and talk about something we all care about. Yes, I know there are going to be some topics that can start some heated debates, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Which is why I say have a moderator. Anyways I'm starting to ramble but just wanted to get some thoughts out there =)


  15. I haven't thought much about a taiko forum. But on my taiko wish list is a VIDEO PODCAST (similar to Darren Matthes' for learning taiko drums. I think Carrie at AllThingsTaiko BlogSpot would be a great person to create such a great resource. From my one year of studying taiko in Japan and seeing dozens of taiko performances in Japan, I would say that form is perhaps even more important than sound when playing taiko. It would be great to watch a podcast of video clips addressing the nuances of good taiko form. For example, when to lift up the bachi in anticipation of the next stroke or when to leave the bachi down, how high to lift one's arms depending on the tempo, when to lift one arm up while other is coming down, when to have both arms down before lifting up, etc. etc.

  16. Great discussion everyone. Here are my quick thoughts.

    Philosophically, I am a fan of information being disbursed from many sources - many blogs vs one, centralized forum. Everyone should have their own website and we should have 50 blogs about taiko rather than one. But there are some things that a centralized structure better facilitates. In the case of taiko, what are those things? The forum should focus on accomplishing things that we can't get done as individuals.

    Anonymity is a critical option - keep the barriers to participation as low as possible.

    How about a rotating leader? For a few weeks or a month, one person here who is excited about the forum can use the site and its contact resources to accomplish a particular goal of their design. Possible goals might be:

    Create an article that summarizes the different points of view on this question - Does any group have ownership of a taiko style?

    Create wikipedia articles for missing taiko terms.

    Document in written and video form five basic taiko drills for the beginner.

    That individual leader would organize and push the rest of us and the specific goal might provide enough momentum to keep the site moving forward.

  17. I agree with Kris that diversity in the dispersing of information is very important. I believe also that having a forum will not replace the blogs that are out there, but it does have the potential to bring out ideas/questions from a wider audience.

    Having a moderator is necessary, but I envision that to be someone who keeps things active, rather than someone who actively shapes what's being discussed. This moderator-guided discussion should be only one section of the site. The forum is ideally a place where everyone is asking questions and taking part in discussion.

    If there is a weekly topic, as mentioned previously, whether this is just a posted question or an actual chat as Lindsay suggested, the moderator could select this topic to:

    1. More clearly focus or hone in on a specific topic recently in discussion.

    2. Bring up an issue suggested by another member of the forum.

    3. Discuss something he/she is currently pondering, whether on his/her own or due to a specific current situation with his/her group. (along the lines of Kris' suggestion)

    By rotating the moderator, any of the directions above could be taken, which leaves lots of flexibility. I think a monthly rotation would be best because it allows for follow up questions and more natural flow.

    I think that the group of moderators should be:

    1. Committed to stay involved (at least reading the discussions) regardless of whether or not it is their week/month as moderator.

    2. Representative of the community in terms of experience, leadership, style... It's important to have people across the spectrum posing questions.

    What are your thoughts?

  18. Wow,great ideas. It'll be really interesting to see how forum is faring in a year. A weekly topic seems like a great idea. I would love to see five basic taiko drills for beginners, etc. There are so many taiko related sites, it is really easy to get "lost" in just looking at what's out there. For an internet novice, like me, it would be helpful to have a central place to refer to for taiko. However, it seems like a lot of work for the person/persons who will be moderating.

  19. I think a one stop resource would be good. As a new leader in my group, it would be nice to have a place to refer to for certain questions I have about group leadership, etc. :)

  20. I think Kris just volunteered to be the first moderator. Yay! ;)

    I do agree that a rotating moderator is ideal - even if it's a small pool, it opens up the different perspectives from different schools of thought.

    It really comes down to who's going to break ground in starting the website, and what will the first incarnation look like?

  21. Kris and Maryll, thanks so much for your comments!

    In regards to Rhythmyk's comment, I'd like to reiterate that if there's anyone participating in this discussion who is interested in being directly involved, please email me directly. This is in regards to actual site development AND if you're interested in moderating.

    While I think it's a good idea to have a group of people involved, it's best that we do it together (at least initially--who knows, maybe we'll have a few forums eventually). A successful taiko forum is more likely if there aren't 5 different ones trying to start at once.

    Al Okada is the contact person to get things started and I am presently awaiting his response to my email. I'll keep you updated on any developments!

  22. I am not in a taiko group myself but my husband is part of St. Louis Osuwa Taiko. I was searching online for a taiko community so we could lookup other taiko groups when we're traveling. I hope your community comes to fruition!

  23. Hi Shandi!

    It did!! Check out There's a map with taiko groups in North America (Group Map) with contact information. Enjoy your travels!