I apologize if the following entry is excruciatingly boring, concerned as it is with matters of blog history administration, so please indulge me at your pleasure, gentle reader.
I started “The Mutant Frog Travelogue” a few years ago back when I was studying abroad here in Japan, just to keep family and friends up to date on what I was doing without having to send out mass emails and so on. At the time I was just hosting it on my university web space, (still online at, despite the fact that I can no longer log in and update it!) and using Blogger (being a Blogger user when Gmail launched got me an invitation to the first stages of the highly restricted semi-open Beta, which was pretty cool) and I had virtually no readership. I blogged off and on over there for a few months, but it was really nothing more than a livejournal style collection of occasional personal news and amusing news clippings, and I had already gotten bored and stopped updating when my friend Adam, who had been on the same study abroad program, asked me to help him set up his own blog devoted to translation of Japanese news articles.

After Adam had been running his blog for a couple of months I decided i would be fun to try again, put together a wordpress based blog on, and began posting here. Adam’s blog the time was still using Blogger, and hosted at an impossible to remember URL on Verizon, and we decided to merge operations on my new blog, which was using a domain that I had just happened to register based on an old online handle. Eventually, Joe Jones, who had been on the same Rotary study abroad as Adam in high school and also had his own blog, joined Mutantfrog. We were briefly joined by a mysterious fourth member, who wrote anonymously as “Saru” for a few months before circumstances led him to stop public blogging.

Over the couple of years this blog has been in existence, and particularly the past few months, our regular readership and volume of discussion has steadily grown and feedback is almost always positive, but there are some name related issues that have been bothering us about the blog lately.

First of all, name confusion. It is a far too common occurrence that someone, whether a reader or another blogger linking to us or a particular post on our site, attributes a post written by one person to the name of another, perhaps not realizing that this is a group blog and that there are in fact multiple authors. This is of course compounded by the fact that I post under my Mutantfrog handle, which is also the name of the blog.

Problem: How should the blog be revised to make authorship of individual posts clearer?

Second, in a related matter, the name I post under. I am currently thinking about trying to get into graduate school to do research on topics related to some things I post about here, and the blog is of course useful for making contacts and perhaps even having people recognize my name. Unfortunately, as Joe pointed out to me earlier today, I do not actually post under my own name but my handle. I DO have my real name (Roy Berman) on the sidebar by the email link, but I think that Joe is probably right when he suggests that virtually no one will notice that.

Problem: Should I sign posts and comments as Mutantfrog, Roy Berman, Mutantfrog (Roy Berman), or what?

Third, the name of the blog. I haven’t really liked the name “Mutant Frog Travelogue” for quite a while. I chose that title when it was intended to be mainly just a personal travelogue, but it isn’t that at all and could use a new title. Also, as Joe says “Mutantfrog is a fun name, but it’s hard to use it with a straight face when you’re talking to, say, a guy who finances stadium developments.” Is, as Joe believes, “” just too silly a name to put on the CV/resume of a lawyer, a translator, a journalist, an academic, or whatever job any of us are applying for? While changing the domain name is impractical, since that would break all existing links and squander our decent google ranking, changing the displayed title is totally feasible and perhaps a good idea.

Problem: What should this blog be named?

I’ve been saying for months and months that I would be building a new template/layout for the blog and finally adding some useful features such as an “About” page, and so I would very much appreciate any feedback related either to these specific aforementioned issues, or blog design and content in general.

18 thoughts on “Mutantfrog?”

  1. I’ve always kind of liked the fact that both our Japan-related blogs had froggish names. And I’ve always like the pun on kaeru in “MutantFrog” (Mutant-mutate-change… not sure if you evern intended it, though)
    … but I see what you mean.

    Since your “handle” is not a shield to your identity, you can point out to anyone who knows you as “Roy” that there’s this other thing you do, and vice versa.

    On the multiple author thing, I think you need to tweak the sidebar to highlight the multiple authors, and increase the size of the author note on the posts as well. We’ve almost never had that problem over at Froginawell that I know of….

  2. 1. Blogging under your real name is a problem if ever in your life you want/plan to be taken seriously. The only way around this is if 1.) you make it appear that your blogging is quasi-legitimate, such as, say,, or 2.) you make it your life’s work, ala Debito.
    2. Perhaps you could follow in the footsteps of “KFC” and just rebrand yourself “MF”? Or a more serious sounding name… like “Eastern Review Online.”
    3. An about page is a must.

  3. Perhaps a different background colour for each regular writer? I admit, when I first saw this, I was confused by the variety of voices and wondered if Adamu and MF were the same person posting under both a tag and a real name.

  4. I’ve been reading this blog for (several?) years now, and it hasn’t occured to me that Mutant Frog Travelogue is a wierd name. Of course, I’m not the one trying to put that on resumes. I thing the name is great, websites domains and names have almost nothing to do with thier content, its just a name. How does one connect the name “Google” to a “search engine” pre-2000? Its just a silly name.

    Website names just brands, and I’ve grown attached to MFT and its yellow-white-yellow layout. It still feels like its made by people who are spending more time thinking and writing than working on making a flashy website. But at the same time this is no either.

    Whatever happens, as long as you, Joe and Adam(u) are still posting, I’ll still be reading.

  5. I agree with Curzon. About page is a must.

    “Problem: How should the blog be revised to make authorship of individual posts clearer?”

    The date and byline should be made more clear- that could be done by raising the font size and darkening the color. Changing the background color is not so obvious. Maybe changing the frog photo to have your own face in it and making it larger. Or having some other visible way of noting that this post is Roy Berman’s (i.e. an image of your signature at the bottom of each of your posts- just an idea.)

    “Problem: Should I sign posts and comments as Mutantfrog, Roy Berman, Mutantfrog (Roy Berman), or what?”

    Roy Berman (Mutantfrog) should be clear.

    Let me say that my blog has been probably the single most important thing I’ve done since graduating college in terms of expanding my network. Anonymity has it’s place if you are writing about very sensitive stuff (the mini-microsoft blog for example) but for the most part, anonymity gets you zero for credibility. Having a high-traffic, high-quality blog is hard work- you should absolutely benefit from you hard work.

    “Problem: What should this blog be named?”

    How about something like ‘mutantfrog: a group blog on asia’ which is what it is. Changing the header imagery to literally say “mutantfrog: a group blog on asia” (or whatever you decide, would be key. Also making sure the header imagery is relevant (somewhat Asian?) also helps.

    Finally with respect to design, there’s a number of things you can do to change the format to show that it’s a group blog. You can do more than 1 column. You can change formatting (fonts/colors/sizes, etc.) for each author, and much much more.

    You guys are doing great, great work and a little more effort on the formatting and design, alongside a clear about page, and a header that takes out ‘travelogue’ and adds in something about the ‘group’ nature should do the trick.

  6. I don’t want to be hemmed into a name like “Asia Review” for two reasons: it would give a false impression that we have some sort of quality standards in place, plus we wouldn’t be able to post non-Asia related stuff. Once you start labelling yourself “Asia” or “Japan” or whatever it’s a slippery slope into “Japundit” or “herroflomjapan” territory with their respective chopsocky logo and lamely stereotypical naming. Though I agree Mutant Frog is not a name that can be taken seriously on a CV, I like the name because it’s so meaningless that it doesn’t matter what we post (sort of like Wikipedia). It’s nice to be able to write in a pressure-free environment, but that is the problem with thinking that this blog should be something that can go on a resume. If this is supposed to be a serious, professional project it should look and feel that way. And it should have a different URL, Google Ranking be damned.

    Anyway, that issue is I think at the heart of what Curzon is talking about when he talks about blogging with your real name. At least in the field I’m in now, I don’t see much value in this blog as anything more than a place to record my thoughts and sometimes get translation practice. It’s not really a serious venture. If you’re reviewing vibrators under your real name and then invite a potential employer to visit the site, there’s little chance that he/she will see this as a positive factor in deciding whether to hire you. I for one have included the fact that I write “a reasonably popular Japan-related weblog” on cover letters, but I have neglected to state the name or volunteer the URL. It’s a bluff, you see.

    Gen mentions network building and credibility, but I don’t really see it at this point.

    So while I’m OK with being Googled and possibly shamed for blogging about ridiculous crap under my real name, I’m also fine with the way it is now. Maybe some of the suggestions Gen mentioned would help take us to the next level.

  7. “Gen mentions network building and credibility, but I don’t really see it at this point.”

    I’ve been blogging for over 5 years. Consistency is important as is quality. Right now my quality sucks, but I keep at it because every now and again, (my post on Korea being a Microsoft monopoly) I get a home run (went to the top of all the major IT sites.)

    My point is that my blog has opened up many, many doors for me. It would not have done so had I not done it under my own name. Japanese bloggers prefer their anonymity, but I gave mine up a while ago (as did you) and so you should make sure that you are ready to benefit from you work. If I were interviewing you, and you had ‘a reasonably popular Japan-related weblog’ on your cover letter or resume, I’d certainly ask about it (but I’m the exception, not the rule.)

    You guys put a lot of work into mutantfrog. You should be making sure that you get any benefits that might come your way. For instance, put an ad on the sidebar for Adam. You’ve got a wide readership. Make use of it appropriately.

  8. Oh another tip. The authors names should be linked to profile pages. Also when Roy and Adam post comments, they should link to those profile pages, not just the top domain.

  9. I come here mostly to practice some English(and to find out what barbarians are ranting about my beloved island nation)Some of the opinions I post here will never be appeaedr in my reallife,real jobs.So I admire everyone show your real name here.
    In my opinion there are many points of keeping anonimity,but in your case MF,it is becoming sort of a nickname.Keep that.(I’ve been thinking Joe Jones was an alias!)
    I also found Mutantdrog is ine weird name,but so is Marmot’s hole and others.Don’t put anything like Japan blah blah or Asia blah blah.The froggy name makes you unique.and you are bloogging (mostly)on the country where residents cosider themselves “Unique”(and others think “weird”).

  10. In re networks, I have found perhaps my best “white” friend in Tokyo through my blog (Darin), and plenty of other people over the years. My time with Eddie has been priceless. Others such as Nathan and Gollios have been great meeting. But it hasn’t been any help in my professional life or career. At least not yet.

    (And I met Roy, Saru, Adamu, Joe, and Younghusband elsewhere.)

  11. I post under this odd handle on a forum with a name that gets it banned from most corporate networks and I’ve done two serious bits of work through contacts made there. No big pay days but interesting nonetheless. That alone seems to indicate that your blog name and/or anonymity are likely to be minor factors if you are concerned about being taken seriously. I certainly didn’t expect to find work that way and I wouldn’t recommend it as a strategy, mind you.

    It took me a while to work out who was who on Mutant Frog which is largely down to my own shortcomings. Now I know where to look, I don’t get confused about who is writing and I suspect the same is true for most regular readers. The suggestions from others about changing the font for the author names would probably help new or more casual readers.

    I think you should stay as Mutant Frog. It is memorable whereas something including Japan or Asia would probably blur into the dozens of other such similar names we all see on blogs, periodicals and organizations.

  12. I would run a separate blog/web page all together just for your posts that you want to be able to show people when you’re applying for school. This could be done under your own name, and no commenting would be allowed. Readership wouldn’t be a big issue since you only need a select few to see it. And hey, who knows, if it goes well, perhaps people will treat like a news source and you’ll be quoted on other people’s blogs as an expert. You could even cite yourself on this blog by giving a brief intro to the article on your other blog in layman’s terms and then send them over to read the whole thing.

  13. Well, Curzon, I think it has a lot to do with style. You’re into politics, and you like to get debates going. In that case, it makes sense to be anonymous. You don’t want some employer Googling you and then dismissing you as a nutjob.

    For us, I think our blogging should feed right into our careers, because a lot of what we write about is stuff we want to get paid for (translation for Adam, history for Roy and legal minutiae for me).

    (Anyway, I’m lucky enough to be immune to Google, because if people look for me, all they’ll find is jazz and barbecue sauce.)

  14. I read Ars Technica almost daily, and I never saw the announcement that they had dropped their nicknames. And here was me wondering why “Hannibal” never writes articles anymore!

    Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments. I’ll write some counter-responses later on when I have some time.

  15. Everyone now knows you’re Roy Berman, and you’ve never really kept that a secret anyway, so there’s no reason not to start posting under your own name. Your identity is out.

    I think Gen’s idea for possibly changing the header is good. Maybe change the photo to a single, clearly relevent image and add a tagline of sorts.

    Don’t change the name, though. You guys have a good thing going and people in the blogosphere take you seriously enough with the name you have. Any employer who sees a good blog as an asset is presumably going to know that blogs sometimes have weird names. Alan has a point with Google. Your reputation and consistency, as Gen mentioned, are more important than the name in and of itself.

    Generic names can be a bad idea. If I happen across something like “The Asia Blog,” I’m going to assume it’s a glorified aggregator. There are too many blogs with names like that already and, frankly, I think it’s a little bit like companies changing to faux-Latinate names. (Philip Morris became Altria, but who knows what the hell Altria is? It’s meaningless.)

    More important than the aesthetic issues is the direction you want to take.

    Is this blog about anything? Is it focused?

    There’s something to be said for both directions. As Adam pointed out, deciding on a focus could make otherwise good content irrelevant or put pressure on you to come up with content in a certain vein.

    On the other hand, if you want to use it for professional purposes, alternating relatively serious articles (even if lighthearted in tone) with an analysis of Krispy Kreme is not going to help you.

    There’s another way, I think. You have a sizable and loyal readership here. You have a consistent “product,” for lack of a better term. Why not set up a parallel blog with a more “serious” image. There’s no reason you couldn’t pull your best serious articles from here and put them there, or write on serious topics there that you think might be too involved for here.

    You could publicize it on MFT and link to yourself.

    That way, MFT can keep the relaxed atmosphere it has and benefit from the branding you’ve already done. Furthermore, you can set a certain tone on the new blog without having to coordinate with Adam and Joe to make sure they’re not getting set to rip into somebody on the same day you want to take a restrained stance on an issue.

    The downside, of course, is that it will take at least a few months to get traffic up over at the new blog, but with an explicit tie to MFT, decent SEO, and good content, traffic will come. It came here and you weren’t even preoccupied with it.

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