Woofcat June 2009

Woofcat is an Administrator at MangaShare, a large scanlation community that offers manga downloads as well as release listing. Woofcat also helps out MangaShare's scanlation team with editing, QC and general project management.

Please introduce yourself!

Woofcat: Hey, I am Woofcat. I have done everything from some editing, QC, and yelling at people. Now I pretty much manage the website, and sometimes yell at team leads who are managing projects. I have been doing this for over three years now. In real life I am a college student.

How did you get involved in scanlation? What was the scene like back then?

Woofcat: Lol, this all started as a joke. I was on IRC with Umbra037 and we were just fans awaiting the new Bleach chapter, he jokingly suggested we scan it. That's how we got started in this. When we started there wasn't as much focus on speed. At the time, the day WSJ series would become scanlated was Friday at the earliest, and late Friday for anything that wasn't Naruto or One Piece. So when we started we kinda aimed for the speed scanlation of Bleach.

Also at the time there were tons more groups competing for the big WSJ series. I recall there being 10–12 Naruto releases on Friday. Now the scene has kinda split from single person teams and WSJ has been divided between a few large groups who all specialize in one aspect of scanlating.

Tell us about MangaShare, what kind of site is it, how did it start? How did it get to where it is today?

Woofcat: Well Manga Share is a site that tracks the latest releases in many languages, it also has an online reader for English only manga at the moment. It is kinda the home base for Binktopia. It got started after the #blood-scanlations and bludshock merger. We decided to release a chapter with an anti-NarutoFan message. We were banned for a short period of time from MangaHelpers for this. They were pretty much the only big scanlation website at the time and there were no alternatives. We were unbanned but we felt the need to create another outlet for scanlators to share their work. Still to this day I think we have much more lax rules on what you are allowed to put in your release.

As for where it is today, it's, well, always changing. We added tracking raw manga, scanlations in other languages, anime, and opened the Reader. We always want to be changing and adapting as the community is also always changing. Several groups have spawned from meeting people at Manga Share and I think I would like to make that easier and see it happen more often in the future.

Why did MangaHelpers ban you?

Woofcat: Ohh they have a "no bashing" rule. So a stop NarutoFan image in our release got us permabanned for like a few hours.

Did MangaShare encounter any roadblocks along the way? Did you get in trouble with any publishers?

Woofcat: Well I'll tell a funny story then get to site-specific question. Our first run in with 'lawyers' was when we were still scanlating as bludshock. Blud got a DMCA in his mailbox with no postage, meaning it had been hand delivered. We of course were all worried and made a post about it on the site. We kept looking at the letter and it wasn't using standard fonts. The series that were listed were not all owned by Viz. So we caved and called Viz's legal department up and asked. They told us they didn't send a DMCA to us, so it was a fake. This was during the Stop-Narutofan time and Blud lives in the same city as Tazmo, the person who owns and operates NarutoFan. So we have a hunch of who could have sent it, but no proof.

As for being a site, we sometimes get DMCA notices for the Manga Reader and we simply comply. We have a list of publishers' content we just don't upload. The tracker on the other hand has never received a DMCA.

The main roadblock any site faces is funding. Manga Share at its peak was costing us a ton of money. Let's be honest, unless you threaten to take down a site, people don't donate, and we consider it tacky to hold a site hostage. There is a middle ground where it's really hard for a site to survive. When you are small you can live on a VPS or shared hosting account. Then you get too big for that, and have to move to dedicated hosting, yet don't have the ad revenue or donations to fund the $200 to unlimited bill.

For example, $1,313 USD bill for a month of hosting, lol. We posted that when someone asked us if we made money. We pretty much run as much disclosure as is reasonable given what we do.

Tell us about this bludshock/blud person.

Woofcat: bludshock, or bluds as he later changed his nick to, was a one-man scanlating machine. He would be the first release out, after cleaning all of Naruto and typesetting it all himself. He has been my "partner in crime" for almost three years. He is a web designer by trade. He started a scanlation group shortly after I did. We merged, and he is a great guy. Fastest MQ cleaner I have seen. He was in charge of a lot of the funding behind us as he had a real job while I was in school, lol.

MangaShare is pretty big nowadays, how is the site organized? Does the site run on custom software?

Woofcat: Well, for the forum software we use vBulletin just like everyone else in the world. The Reader and tracker were all custom code by Blud. He put a ton of effort into it. We felt at the time, and still do, that there is no off the shelf product that does anything close to what you want when you start up a manga site. All the servers run CentOS if anyone cares.

Tell us about what the current scanlation scene is like, there seems to be many other download and online reading sites, how do these download sites, including MangaShare, feel about each other?

Woofcat: The scene today for sites is as it always has been; split into two categories, pay and free. In the free category there is often rivalry between sites, but we all generally get along. We often have helped each other out on occasion. Yes we all compete in the same market but we're civil.

The pay sites, well, we generally dislike them. We have publicly called for the end of NarutoFan and BleachExile in the past. I am sure they view us as people with a huge superiority complex. That being said, I have talked peacefully with Starkana from BleachExile and Tazmo from NarutoFan. While we dislike their tactics doesn't mean we hate them. Perhaps it is because I seldom talk to Administrators from newer sites, but we sorta all know each other at one point or another. There are only so many big sites and generally the Administration of those sites is older and more mature about things.

Fun fact: #blood-scanlations was started by all of the (distro place for Aone&ANBU releases) members. Later the Gotwoot admins launched Manga Traders.

The conflict between NarutoFan/BleachExile and the free download sites seems to be a pretty interesting story in itself, care to give a brief summary of it from your point of view?

Woofcat: Well, it all boils down to the fact that scanlations and fandubs are made by the fans, completely free and with little or no expectation of getting anything in return. Pay sites take these things made for the community, and dupe people just getting into anime/manga that they should have to pay to get the content.

I have heard from tons of users that they were previous paying members of these sites. It also insults the scanlators when releases have any anti-paying site content, the pay sites strip it out. After we argued with BleachExile, they removed all the credits from Binkopia releases that they hosted, simply because Binktopia was associated with us.

It seems like in recent years there have been many small speedscan groups, and manga like Naruto are usually scanlated by 5+ groups at once, how do you feel about this trend of smaller speed groups?

Woofcat: Well, I suppose Binktopia kind of started it. When they went with their new raw provider, they were the first group to push it back a full day to Thursday releases. It has its pros and its cons. On one hand it's nice to get the manga as soon as possible as I mainly enjoy the story over the art. On the other hand this massive amount of groups causes the quality level to be so different.

When you had groups doing 10+ projects, all of those projects where up to their standards, and you knew what you were getting. I suppose I like it better this way as the faster someone gets a raw out, the faster both HQ and LQ teams have to work on it. I do however think the whole 5-groups-working-on-one-project trend is kinda redundant. The groups that are first and second should compete for it. Then leave the rest for the HQ people. Those teams could be off scanlating manga that is less popular and really pleasing some people.

A lot of older scanlators dislike these speed groups since they give up quality for speed, how do you feel about these older scanlators' views?

Woofcat: Well, it is true they have given up quality for speed, and I think it would be a awesome point if it wasn't for the HQ groups like Manga7 and Ju-Ni who are doing HQ work and taking their time. Some of the speed scan groups are members of HQ groups. I know Binktopia has members who are members of M7. I feel it is possible to have it both ways. People who are archiving the releases and want the full experience will wait for the HQ groups.

What do you think is the future of scanlation and download sites?

Woofcat: I think eventually the publishers will catch up as will copyright laws. Eventually you won't be able to host a direct download site of content you don't own. But Eventually I think all the publishers will smarten up and basically do the same thing as scanlators but charge maybe $5 a month. You can see it start to happen with anime.

Viz now releases Naruto online streaming a couple days after it airs. This made Dattebayo quit subbing Naruto. In my opinion this would be easier to do with manga as the amount of hardware / bandwidth is much lower than that of video production.

So in the end, we will die out. In the short term I think the process will continue to be streamlined as computers get more powerful, like less work for humans when doing image correction. I also see that due to bandwidth being cheaper for home users, the manga community will decline in exchange for anime.

Thank you very much for the interview! Any last words?

Woofcat: I suppose, if you want to be an administrator, just remember no to be totalitarian. The users are who the site is for, not the other way around. Treat even your worst member with as much respect as your best.