Sunday, March 04, 2007

Just a head's up

It's a small, but growing Nunavut blogging community and I'm happy to be a part of it. But the thing of it is, Nunavut's still a small place so while the blogging community is small, it's still easy for people to find you if they so wish. It's not like being a blogger in Toronto, where there are thousands more, but you can have a higher degree of anonymity if you wish because you're in a city of millions. My name isn't on this blog, but people can still find out who I am if they're determined.

And there have been at least two incidents in the past that I know of where Nunavut bloggers got in trouble. One got fired, the other got a warning. It's always wise to be careful about what you write, especially if you're going to mention anything pertaining to work.

I follow that rule pretty well, but there are still occasions when innocent things can still circle around and get you, which happened to me in the last week. Like most governments, there is a media monitoring list that gets circulated around every day. A lot of government employees get this and normally it's just news stories or press releases relating to Nunavut. However, recently they've started listing anything bloggers might be writing of interest.

It's fairly simple, really. A Google blog search using certain key words works. I've been able to find some more bloggers in Iqaluit by doing this. Someone at the curling club said they liked my blog and found it using this method.

You can see where this is going.

The other week I did my little bit on Justin Trudeau. Nobody commented on it and I figure that was that. Except media monitoring picked it up and I found a link to my blog in my morning media monitor. Which made me a touch paranoid that day. My stats did a spike and a bunch of new people from around Nunavut have apparently just discovered my blog.

Hi, by the way.

Which is fine. I had my "oh fuck" moment, but I don't think I write anything too controversial here and I've always been careful to keep reference to work, what my work entails, etc out of the blog. But it never hurts to remind the rest of the blogging community about this. To always asking yourself "do I really need to write about this?" if you think there is the possibility of getting yourself in trouble with your employer. Because if you work for the territorial government then the odds of them finding out is certainly there. And you have to ask if they're going to like what you're saying.

Yes, you can get into a debate about free speech and everything else and whether or not your employer should care what you do in your free time. But never hurts to exercise a bit of...restraint. It's just a blog, after all, no matter how much you enjoy doing it.

Oh, one more thing...I also had a reporter from the Associated Press e-mail me this week. She was in town working on a story and wanted to talk to me. I declined for a variety of reasons. But once again, you never know who is reading.


Way Way Up said...

I know I've let loose a couple times after a particularly frustrating day. I'm amazed no one has nailed me yet though I've been meaning to go back make sure I haven't made any "oops"'s. Government can have big arms and big teeth!

nin said...

BUT... if you want to know what towniebastard has to say off-line, feel free to e-mail me at...

WJM said...

Relax, you're in Nunavut, not Dannystan.

towniebastard said...

I'm not sure if being sued or being fired are great options either way. Regardless, I'd prefer not to find out.

Although this does make me wonder what the NL government's media monitoring must look like...

Mike Kehoe said...

I think anyone reading your blog today is totally sympathetic! Can it be that excercising free speech through blogging is most effective when the person making it has little if anything to loose by way of job loss or other assets.

I can only refer to a posting on the “Meeker on the Media” site of a speech by one David Cochrane for a great illustration of what you may be experiencing. Also refer to your own post of 02/28/2007 Wilderness Voices.

It becomes oh so easy to understand the loud silence of business when dealing with the heavy hand of government. Too much to lose.

Nothing like a libel or potential job loss chill to suppress that feeling to “call it like it is”.

Good piece TB!

Nancy said...

I know the feeling. On a visit to my hometown one day last year, I ran into an old acquaintance who excitedly said "Heyyy, I love your blog!"

I was momentarily stunned and my mind flashed though all my posts as I wondered how he found out I had a blog.

We're not in a bubble, kids.

No question I would have been dooced if something was found to be outside policy, especially in these Kim Jong-il times.

I can't tell you how many times over the past couple of years that I've opened up a blank blogging template, spent a few minutes typing, then summarily deleted my thoughts.

It was unrealistic for me to think I could blog and be frank.

(Yes, this goes against everything I believe in. But ya gotta buy groceries ya know?)

North of Nain said...

I completely agree with your post and I try not to talk about work. I'm not with the GN anymore, but I was very careful when I did work for them. Heck, I used to email other NU bloggers and tell them to watch what they are's very easy to figure out peoples names and positions of employment based on postings and is your job really worth a few minutes of typing? Use a little common sense.

I could actually start stalking towniebastard based on previous blogs. I know the building you live in and the vehicle you drive...I'm not going to...but you should think about that.

When I want to refer to my employer I often spell the word wrong on purpose so that the search engines don't pick it up. A suggestion for other bloggers.

I have far to many hits from within the territory and am considering doing my blog by invite only...but at the moment I'm enjoying the out of country hits too much to shut it down.

c'est moi said...

I agree with everything you and the others here in the comments had to say on this issue. If one's blog is about expressing oneself with a bit of pinache, then play with words. Beware of big brother though. You know, I was thinking too, it's sad that the GN has blog police on its payroll. Damn that guys salary could be better spent on something more meaningful like ___________ (feel free to fill in the blank yourself).

towniebastard said...

Well, North, I'm not that worried about stalkers. Really, my previous job was more likely to attract stalkers. Whatever my current blog traffic it doesn't really come close to having your face on a weekly column on a 40,000 circulation newspaper. I used to get a few crazies with that. Now I only have one.

And I avoid subjects that involve my work. Which is frustrating because I know a lot and it's interesting. But that's the price of doing business.

And it's not really like there are the blog police. There's a standard media monitoring service which occasionally mentions a blog. If you're talking about going out on the land the weekend, that won't get mentioned. If you start discussing Nunavut politics, especially in an intelligent way (which discounts a lot of what you might read on Ranting and Raven), you might get zapped.

Also, in both incidents I know of, it was people outside of government who read the blogs and then complained to government officials. So don't think it's big brother stalking local bloggers. It's more like people upset with what you have to say ratting you out to big brother.

J Consortium said...

Good post!

The rule of thumb for our blog is to save the complaints or negative talk. I have another, invite-only journal on another site that I use for complaining of any type. I think it's a good rule to have. It's difficult to take offence to a blog that doesn't say anything negative.