Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Friday, July 20, 2007

Blog Not Deleted

This blog has not...and will never be...deleted by the blog administrator.

However...


I have already mentioned this issue briefly on a recent comment thread, but I wish to state it here clearly and publicly for a number of reasons.

"Life in the Land of the Rising Sun" started its life back in the late 90s as a sort of e-mail newsletter that I sent out to various friends and relatives whenever I felt I had something to write about. Since its readership was carefully controlled, I was able to express myself as poignantly or as caustically as I liked. I could wax poetic without fear of embarrassment, and I could vent my frustrations concerning certain individuals in a blunt, in-your-face manner without fear of reprisal. The switch to a much more public blog format was only natural, maybe even inevitable, but it meant I had to be more careful.

I have never pretended that this blog is secret. I have advertised its existence to many people, including several of my coworkers here at Ye Olde Academy, and I have always assumed that some of them have visited it at least once if not regularly. As with any (would-be) writer, I have actually felt flattered by my readership, and I have indulged myself for the sake of my audience just as I do when I'm speaking or playing music onstage. Unfortunately, there have been times when I have gotten caught up in the cathartic venting of stress, the self-entertainment of witty sarcasm, or simply my own delusions of literary grandeur, and I have written things that could only be called reckless. Sometimes I wondered if there might be a danger of reprisal while taking perhaps a bit too much comfort in the fact of its being in English and therefore not easily readable by the people around me.

Last year, at one of our staff meetings, one of our Head Teachers suddenly started talking about blogs, explaining the school's official policy with regard to the public use of names, faces, and facts connected with our school. At the time I honestly thought he was talking to me with regard to this blog, so I started making an even bigger effort to make sure that I used no names (at least not in full), posted no clearly-identifying photos, and publicized none of the school's secrets. I was confident that I was playing within the rules, and no one could possibly complain.

Well, somebody did, and it was someone I never would have expected.

Not long ago I suddenly got an explosion of hits on this blog coming from Australia. Nearly all of them were indicated as coming from near Brisbane, i.e. the general location of our sister-school. The fact that the rush had started the very day after the group of students and teachers from our sister-school had returned home from their visit here gave me some cause to worry. It told me two things:

  • The students and/or teachers from our sister-school had only just been tipped off as to the existence of this blog.
  • They had to have been told by someone here, meaning either faculty or (more likely) students here at Ye Olde Academy had given them that info.

Those facts were a little disturbing, but I didn't have cause for genuine concern until a few days later. I went into the administrative office (without warning) to ask the Vice Principal a question. There, on his desk, on a large stack of fresh-looking paper with new-looking print, was a printout of the entire contents of this blog. When I pointed at it and asked if he had anything to say to me about it, he would only reply that he'd "found" it. He then went on to point out a couple of minor issues with it, mainly related to a couple of the photos I'd posted. However, his manner showed all too plainly that I wasn't supposed to know that he'd "found" my blog. I was clearly still under investigation.

This morning I got a call from the Principal asking me to report to his office as soon as possible. I knew exactly what it was going to be about. Actually, the Principal is a very decent man, and he was far more decent, gracious, patient, and understanding with regard to the issue than he probably ought to have been. He explained exactly where the trouble had come from. He was also more than reasonable with his requests as to how I might correct it.

He had received a formal letter of complaint regarding this blog from none other than the Principal of our sister-school. There was nothing for our Principal to do but offer a formal apology in return. He was fully within his rights to discipline me, since I had clearly put the sister-school program at undue risk, but all he did was recommend that I apologize myself and edit the offending passages and photos in this blog.

The biggest concern was the recent post about the visit to our school by teachers and students from our sister-school. I had written some things about their chief Japanese teacher that I shouldn't have. My intent was partly to vent some frustration, I admit, but it was mainly to underscore the many difficulties that we'd faced...and overcome...both in pulling off the visit and in dealing with the complexities of inter-cultural relations. In the end, I had commended her on a wonderful job once we'd all gotten over the initial hump. However, when I went back and read the post again, I realized that I had made a horrible mistake. The first part of the post portrayed her in a very humiliating light, and someone reading it could very well form their impression of her only from that. If her students were to read it, it could very well trash her reputation as a teacher. It was never my intent, and I'd call it a terrible blunder on my part. She had every right to be offended, and her Principal was correct in being outraged. I have since edited the post, and the offensive parts have been removed. I only hope there'll be no further damage from that.

The Principal of our sister-school also says there are some issues with my series of posts about our visit there last year. However, after looking them over again, I admit I'm in the dark. I have found only very positive comments and nothing damning about the school or its faculty. I know our own Principal wants me to pull a couple of the pics (mostly the full-face group shots), but I can't see any other trouble. I'm hoping someone will give me some explanation here so that this issue can be cleared up and corrected before any more trouble is caused.

I'm very sorry if I've been reckless in my posting. It does tend to happen from time to time, since, as I've said, I can tend to get a little carried away, but now that I have a better idea of the ground rules, I'll try to be more careful.

Thank you.

9 Comments:

  • Oh dear, the devilry of blunt blunder blogs!
    Yeah, I know the feeling when I've been very disgruntled about military coups and dictatorships and foolishness and have said so, then I've deleted the venting of spleen when I sobered up (okay, I don't drink!). Caution is necessary because there might be repercussions.
    Thanks for your explanations because it is a cautionary tale for all of us.
    An article in one of the weekend Melbourne papers here was actually about blogs and legal tangling where the writer talked about defamation and sueing even if you tell the truth! So be alert, be alarmed - as our PM says to all of us as we wait with bated (or is it baited) breath for an election later in the year.
    w.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 6:32 PM  

  • Hi The Moody Minstrel.
    I am sorry that you have been ‘found out’, perhaps not found out as your blog/postings is in the public domain for all to see and read and that you’ve never made any secret about it.

    My feelings and thoughts are that on the scales of what is ‘right and wrong’ you had said more positive then negative facts about your work place, your fellow co-workers and students.

    Why anyone should have taken embrage at your post writings I can’t understand, I know if anyone has written and has spoken negative comments about me - [and yes there's been quite a few] I look into my self and think that’s how that person sees me and try and change my persona or at least challenge them on a one to one basis

    There’s a lot more I would like to say but I wont in case it adds more fuel for the fire.

    I think Peceli and Wendy's comment, “Caution is necessary because there might be repercussions. Thanks for your explanations because it is a cautionary tale for all of us”, absolutely right.

    Please keep on with your most excellent blog.

    By Blogger Mick's Page, at 7:05 PM  

  • It does highlight the fact that a blog is a public "soap box" which is very different from a private conversation or email. There is a much greater potential to cause others harm, even though unintended.

    Glad that the principal is a reasonable fellow. Otherwise you may have had to resort to publishing those photos you took at the spring picnic.....

    JUST KIDDING!

    dpjtpyn - diphenyl-j-tripolypentoxide-y-nitrate

    not something you want to find in your water.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 8:26 PM  

  • I am not sure if Blogger has this stuff, but with Live Journal, you can make private, friend, and public entries. This allows you to control your audience and post to 3 different levels of granularity. That might be a solution to give you more writing options and keep the general public from seeing things that might be harmful to you.

    If you do that, please invite me as a friend ;)

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 10:04 PM  

  • i used to do the same while i worked at the shura council. i'd post about ppl that would piss me off, their ridiculous habits, and then post about other things and such. i got a post one time that threatened me pretty much in the way exposing who i was... i wonder sometimes if that's why i didn't get my contract reinstated... but who knows.

    i feel for you. i know that one needs an outlet to vent.. especially when you work in what is a culturally different environment and i would think, especially, in the school system.

    i've never seen anything wrong w/ your blog... but some ppl just can't handle the truth.

    By Blogger Um Naief, at 10:56 PM  

  • Hi Moody Minstrel,
    its always going to be a difficult one, though we are free to think what we like (and don't like), we are clearly not free to print or publish anything regarding work

    Or if holding a certain capacity at work, anything too controversial

    Hence there are few doctors with blogs, who dare criticise either hospital policy - or their colleagues (a nono for the medical profession in the blogosphere or anywhere)

    Hope it all gets resolved.
    I guess one has to toe the line even if ine is the 'conductor' on stage, unless one is famous enough to be able to act out like a prima dona

    But my lesson from life, is that there are always plenty of people out there out to drag one down (sometimes just for the hell of it) so it's best not to give them any amunition, nor to make enemies who may then be waiting for the opportunity to take their revenge.

    Live & lert live
    Praise and be praised
    Criticised & be criticised, c'est la vie!

    By Blogger QUASAR9, at 3:33 AM  

  • Well as you said, not the biggest surprise. Still, it is rather sad that in order for someone to express themselves they need a secret identity. Even then someone can often figure out who you are like um naief posted about someone threatening to expose them. As someone who got the earlier emails, I do enjoy coming by the site and as you say, kind of thought of it as an extension of that. Of course if I were caught/exposed talking about my job online I would be lucky if all I got was fired, but then again that is one of several reasons I don't have my own blog...

    By Anonymous The Intrepid Adventurer, at 5:51 AM  

  • you're not the only one to get in trouble with your computer, for me it was an enticing e-mal to a coworker!

    However, as one who has published on the web since I learned how the Internet worked from Snabby, I was always a little fearful and cuatious about saying things that were risky but I did it anyway, becuase I felt what I had to say was important.

    Point of fact, the presidential blog I am now writing is risky. Speaking your mind about war and terrorism is not likely to go down well in certain countries. However, I feel the risk is worth the benefits of educating people to my point of view.

    Even though I have been anonymous as Pa`ve on PPP, I felt the presidential blog was important enough to put my real name on it. I haven't done that since I created the Tribulation Archive, which is, incedentally still in paper form, and if I ever get a working scanner I may in fact republish it because it is still good material.

    None the less, I have several RULES that I go by when it comes to publishing.

    I never bring up family matters on the internet. My family would not feel comfortable having their life stories published for all to see.

    I never discuss matters about work publicly.

    When discussing something that someone has said on the radio or on TV or in a newspaper or online, I always give the reader the ability to check my source, its just good journalism practice.

    Keep in mind that not only could you get fired, you could be held liable in a legal suit for defamation of character. A photo of a student cold fall into the hands of a child predator.

    You simply must avoid making other people's personal information a part of your work. I know that would pretty much kill a lot of what you have to say, and I don't expect you to follow my rules, but please consider them from now on.

    I wish you the best of luck, and I hope that the person who was offended accepts your apology.

    By Blogger Pa've, at 8:14 AM  

  • I was actually worried that you were going to get in trouble for some time now. Maybe writing a few more songs might be a good way to vent… ?

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 12:08 PM  

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