kal- & elvisrules & Protected July 2009
kai- and elvisrules are founders of Null, a shounen-oriented scanlation group founded in 2002. As the group grew, it went on to become its own group while absorbing other groups in the process. During Null's merger with Manga-Section in 2004, Protected joined the group as a webmaster and later became an administrator. Null is known for its scanlation of various shounen manga, in particular One Piece. Null also created the Null Bot Packlists Website engine, which lists an IRC bot's manga packlist and is used by other groups including Lurk, the largest IRC-based manga archive to ever exist.
kal-: I'm kal-, the founder of this group. Gokusen and Hotman are the two projects I'm currently in charge of. I also help occasionally with other projects. I can do everything on my own: scanning, editing, translating (French, Spanish), proofreading, quality checking; but it's really boring to scanlate manga alone and I don't have the time. Thanks to all the Null staff for making scanlation fun :) I'm also an admin in Manga-Daisuki and I help occasionally Manga-Sketchbook and Blackout.
elvisrules: I'm elvisrules, the co-founder of Null and founder of several of our projects (One Piece and Gash being the biggest ones). I'm British but have lived in Belgium most of my life. I was 12 when I joined Null, and soon 20 now. I start university in October to study Japanese! I'm the second oldest member after kal- (sorry for the lack of structure here...).
At different times I've done different things in Null: editor, scanner, QCer, French->English translator, project coordinator, and webmaster. Recently, I have been scanning Saki, editing Gash and coordinating Bowling King. I've also been scanning/translating/editing a possible new project, which might or might not see the light of day.
I also ran Null pretty much on my own from when kal- left to pursue his studies (around 2003) until we began to run things on a more democratic level (around 2004–05), as we do now. I originally hired the now Null administrators Spl and Protected and am responsible for the absorption of VGM.
When kal- left Null in 2003, he actually meant for the group to disband. I however, was unhappy with this and felt that Null should keep going, so I hired some new staff and reorganized a new Null under me. You can read more about this on our wiki. Those were the "good ol' days" for me as it was quite an adventure, but also hell at times. There was no 'place to get raws,' so I was the one who had to go around different IRC channels and Asian websites looking for them. I was constantly looking for new staff as Null only had a few reliable ones at that time. The editors weren't great so I would usually work on the chapter cover page and double pages, while they worked on the rest of the chapter.
Protected: I'm Protected, a Null administrator who performs several not-directly-scanlation-related odds and ends for Null and also does some scanning and quality checking once in a while. I'm very arrogant and was behind several policies and events that made me the focus of terrible hatred from the heart of many people, mainly leechers. All in all, I'm a horrible person that you should probably hope never to meet face to face. I kill children and smash iPhones.
kal-: When we started, it wasn't a group, just me and 2 friends editing for ourselves. We also shared our work with our friends from other groups. The releases weren't meant to be public. The group actually didn't exist. But when the chapters were being spread around, we just added a [Null] tag to the filename, meaning nothing.
We're democratic and decentralized. Even if key members leave, the group will keep going (something we learned after disbanding in 2003).
kal-: I was already an admin in Manga-Daisuki at the time, and after asking permission to the other admins, I started borrowing the channel for releases and management. Null was never a sub-group of Manga-Daisuki.
After 3 weeks, we were already a real team, and logically we registered our own channel. I'm still an admin in Manga-Daisuki, but I'm just idling...
kal-: Null wasn't secretive at first, we just didn't talk about ourselves. When we became a real group, we finally had a website and an IRC channel. But the manga we did were licensed, and many thought that wasn't cool. That's why we wanted to be discrete. But later, scanlating licensed titles was considered acceptable. We continued to be secretive, but it was just for fun. Part of the "game" was to find us on your own if you really wanted manga. A big Thank You to all the webmasters who removed our links and agreed to play along :)
elvisrules: In the early days, I would often argue with kal- that we shouldn't be so secretive. He relented one day and allowed me to create a website, quite basic, which we had for sometime using the webspace of my ISP (http://users.skynet.be/tuture/ for the oldies who still remember the site). I only had 50MB of space but unlimited bandwidth, which helped a lot. Later, a professional web designer called xylene who was a fan of Null, designed a website for us free of change, which had a beige-like colour if anyone remembers. I purchased the domain name n-u-l-l.com, which redirected to my webspace. Some years later however, I forgot to renew it, so we now use n-u-l-l.net and a more modern website designed by kal- and Protected.
kal-: That's part of our democratic process. Someone made the proposition and the admins voted in favor.
kal-: There were already many groups scanlating many manga in 2001. We were just one more.
elvisrules: Some of the obstacles we faced... I don't recall us every having any legal issues, which might be due to our being so secretive. We did however face a lot of scrutiny from the online manga fanbase in our early years due to several reasons:
- There was the issue of us mistakenly using a One Piece translation by stephen of MangaScreener. It was not theft but a mistake on our part, which was never made again and for which we apologized, but it took years for people to forget the incident as stephen and MangaScreener made a huge deal of it at the time.
- We also suffered from unpopularity due to many regarding us as an arrogant group, because of our secrecy.
- Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for our unpopularity early on was that we were the first group to work on licensed manga. Before there was a sort of rule that no scanlation group would work on licensed manga, and we broke that. Groups do it all the time nowadays, but at the time there were many who disliked us for it, especially among other scanlation groups.
Protected: I think it only disbanded once in the very early stages (I wasn't yet around). Any group is welcome to join Null "en bloc" if we get along fine. This is useful for us because it strengthens the group and attracts more people, but also for the group because they can easily start more projects together with our members, uses the services of our proofreaders, our website, distribution system, etc.
elvisrules: The groups were absorbed under Null because it was felt it would be beneficial in terms of increasing our fanbase, preserving and continuing scanlations, as well as acquiring new staff. It was indeed a good choice as some long-term Null members, such as Stmated and risha3rd (now both inactive), were hired through absorption. The absorption of Manga-Section allowed us to ensure the distribution of their releases and the continuation of the popular Hunter X Hunter project (which was later dropped). The absorption of VGM and Blackout also brought us a number of projects, namely Black God and Gokusen respectively.
kal-: Protected was a Manga-Section member and he suggested the absorption of his team.
kal-: I try to listen to everyone and I never make big decisions on my own, after all, we're a team. I know I can count on everyone and go on vacation two or three weeks without worrying. I had to "sacrifice" an editor once for the good of the group. I hope that I never have to do that again.
Protected: All of us live in different countries and have different personalities, this means we inevitably argue about stuff once in a while. However, our grand master and supreme leader kal- is generally laid back and believes in democracy and letting things run. So I think Null pretty much became a group that works very well thanks to everyone knowing exactly what they have to do (they are briefed or assisted immediately after they join) and just doing it.
We have a central FTP in our very own server, which has so much disk space it won't run out even if Null existed for a century. Everyone downloads the things they need (scanlation parts) from there, assigns whatever task they want to do to themselves in our IRC channel, and then uploads the resulting work back to the FTP. Members who don't come to IRC can simply exchange stuff through e-mail. Several people have access to our Gmail account to make this an easier process. Each project usually has at least one dedicated translator and editor (there can be more than one though), and then there is a team of proofreaders in charge of quality control for all projects, although they can take an interest in specific projects if they choose to do so. Our job as admins is mainly to yell insistently at people who stop working for more than a couple of weeks and finding replacements if necessary. All the admins other than me are also (good!) editors.
Protected: I'll ignore this question as a humorous joke from an interviewer who otherwise seems to be very well informed about us :P
elvisrules: Our biggest project is obviously One Piece, and even though we stopped scanlating it from magazine raws, many still associate our name with it and vice-versa. We are the first group to work on licensed manga having scanlated Naruto once Toriyama's World dropped it and One Piece once MangaScreener dropped it. We could also perhaps be called the first 'speed group' as we always strived for quick regular releases of our Shounen Jump projects. I dislike the name speed group though as most speed groups nowadays seem to care more for speed than quality, Null however was different. It was always ahead of its time: if you go back to download our first scanlations, the quality is quite poor, but mostly better than that of other groups at the time. Even so, we still managed fast regular releases, which I believe to be quite impressive.
kal-: With time, with experience, we became better at what we do! The transition was smooth for the image quality, but most of us are Europeans and English is our 2nd or 3rd language, and the scripts were average. One day, an excellent proofreader joined us (she's now an English teacher) and she trained the others.
Speed groups have my full support. The mission of a team is basically to make their manga projects popular and to make available as many titles and as fast as possible. Obviously, a high-quality release will make a project more attractive. If it's high-quality and fast then it's perfect! Unfortunately, what I've seen around 2005–2007, and even today, are N groups doing the same Naruto chapter instead of doing N different manga. What a waste...
Protected: Well, I wrote it. It grew from a simple database front-end to collect and display (in a formatted manner) our bot lists into this horrible monster of patchwork code that I'm truly ashamed of, but people sometimes still ask for it once in a while and it ended up being used by several groups, although some only use it for inside work (for example, it is capable of producing a sequence of RENUMBER commands that can sort a packlist for versions of iroffer that do not directly support that feature). It was decommissioned more than two years ago, when I wrote the current website engine, which is a much more neat and efficient website (not to mention it has built-in project management, user accounts, forums and display styles). I did not include in the new website many, many features of the old one which were either of dubious usefulness or had been written specifically for #lurk, because they decided to write a different engine for them back then. Little did I know that two years later they'd be still using that dated piece of shit ;)
Protected: No ;)
Protected: They're two completely unrelated groups. Manga-Heaven was doing some cool projects such as 20th Century Boys, but had no proper website, so we offered to share ours.
kal-: Manga-Heaven are our friends.
Protected: Well, many people think a good scanlation can be achieved by snapping one's fingers. It can't. Some also think it's our calling in life and we have absolutely nothing else to do other than serve them with illegal entertainment. It's not. Finally, we are unable to predict when any manga will next be released. How the hell should we know? Usually our projects are releases shortly after they are ready, subject of course to release aggregation, batch release scheduling, website maintenance, etc.
elvisrules: Null admins in order of their joining Null: kal-, elvisrules, SSH83, Spl, Protected, kikiboudka. All are still active apart from kikiboudka, who just retired this month, and SSH83, who left a few years ago due to losing interest. He definitely deserves a mention. He translated numerous One Piece chapters from Chinese while we were missing a Japanese translator. He also founded our projects Bowling King and Show Me The Money. He translated Show Me The Money and a good part of Bowling King. xylene deserves a mention for giving Null its first proper website. Tuna, a former Finnish editor, also deserves a mention for being the first to edit One Piece which I would call HQ. Hitomi-chan, a former American proofreader/QCer, also deserves a mention for first bringing the quality of our scripts up to that of our edits.
kal-: Ryoga, for editing the first Naruto chapters when Null was not named yet.
Protected: All our members are awesome people; you can see a reasonably up to date list of names in our latest group picture. Those that suck are the ones that leave without a word, making us waste weeks waiting for them (because we're such nice and polite people). But they're not Null members ;) I'd also like to thank all the leechers who have always been there for us, try to join when we're short on people, donate in times of crisis, post in the forums without trolling, and await every release patiently and loyally. You know we have always been there and we always will, and the only thing we truly ask of you is patience.
kal-: Japanese manga are nice, but Japanese people aren't. Trust my 8 years of experience with evil Japanese translators!
Protected: Unfortunately, people are gradually moving away from IRC, which is a bad thing. IRC is an excellent platform, which allows people to exchange ideas easily but which can also be extended with custom programmed software clients (bots). The DCC protocol, which is a standard, allows uncomplicated file transfer between two parties, too. People are replacing this incredible flexibility with parasite websites (which steal the releases of groups without their consent and make them available for download, sometimes even asking for money in return!) and shittier communication platforms, such as MSN Messenger, AIM or social networks. Scanlation can only suffer from this, as it hinders the exchange of ideas and causes scanlators to grow apart, or communities to grow apart from scanlation groups. Then again, many leechers (and even worse, scanlators) do not seem to have any of the respect due to the manga industry, which has so far refrained from prosecuting us fans legally, even though we are harming their business model. Maybe someday they'll try the RIAA approach and that will be the end of scanlation as it is today.
kal-: We've survived so far... but the future doesn't look bright. Ultimately, that will be up to the fans.
kal-: like Protected said before: "Scanlation can only suffer from this, as it hinders the exchange of ideas and causes scanlators to grow apart, or communities to grow apart from scanlation groups."
How do you think the Null members were recruited? We are all former leechers! For example: readers who only check the online reading sites don't read the news in our website and they don't know if we need an editor or a proofreader. We also don't know anymore what people think because they don't chat with us on IRC. In the forum, lately, we see many complaints and demands instead of thanks... It's not as fun as it used to be.
Someone asked me earlier this month if Null should "go back to its roots": only give the releases to people who contribute (scanners, editors...) to the community.
elvisrules: I'm a long-time fan of MangaScreener, even though they never liked me in return! :p
kal-: I read several titles but One Piece is the only project I'm still following after all these years.
Protected: Too many to list, and I can't fairly choose ones above the others.
All three: How about a shameless recruitment ad? Even when we are not explicitly recruiting translators and editors, good ones are always welcome. Send us an e-mail if you'd like to join.