Sep 122008

When I first started this blog I had no idea I’d be writing for so long. I just thought it might be a nice way to keep in touch with those who are close to me during my planned one semester abroad in Kyoto. But here I am four years later, still writing (almost) as much as ever.

I kind of like it. In addition to helping me to learn/upkeep my web programming skills, I can always use it to go back and catch a glimpse into how I’ve changed as a person, how my perspectives have shifted, or simply to relive an enjoyable little experience that might otherwise have been forgotten. Just the other day a friend e-mailed me to reminisce about how ironic our meeting was in Kyoto, four years ago. It was cool to be able to send him an article I wrote on that very day.

Yet ever since I started, there have been those who’ve warned me. “Be careful what you write – because you’re really putting yourself out there for all the world to see.” And it’s true. I have no idea how many people know my face, know who I’ve dated and who my friends are, know how I may feel about one thing or another. So from the start, I’ve tried to be as careful and tactful as possible about what I write, while still being true to my observations. When I see something, I like to represent the whole picture as I see it – with both the good and the bad. But sometimes when the balance is tipped to on the negative side, it can be misinterpreted or even insulting to readers.

In the last few months this type of problem finally started to catch up with me. I had four separate instances in which my writing “got me in trouble.” So I decided it was time to go back and clean things up a bit.

This included removing everywhere I’ve written anyone’s full name (there were way more last names scattered about than I expected), disabling search engine caching (in case someone ever requests I remove or modify post, I can get to it quickly), and taking down the music player from the main page (I realized that freely posting mp3s would probably be a copyright infringement of some sort). I also re-did quite a bit of the underlying security that I pieced together from a combination of tags, categories, and pre-existing WordPress plugins. It’s designed much more cleanly now, which provided the added bonus of making it easier to add new “country” categories or access levels while keeping the two concepts distinct.

So my question to all of you is: what do you think? In your honest opinion, am I putting myself in a bad position by writing candidly about, for example, my frustrations with making my way through Egypt? Or about a week of wild partying in Brazil during Carnaval? My intent is always to represent as completely as possible my experiences and impressions – which may or may not represent anyone else’s – but if my writing is unconsciously creating a negative public image of Justin, well that’s not something I really want to be doing.

I really really request that you’re honest here, since I’m the one doing the writing, I don’t really know how it comes across to others. All I can do is ask** ๐Ÿ™‚

  10 Responses to “Past-Due Security”

  1. You have to protect yourself. Maybe you could just use the first letter or two of the person’s first name if you write about them. Personally, I get a lot of enjoyment reading about your travels. It was also great to meet you in person in Japan.

  2. hi there – I don’t think you’re creating a negative image of yourself. I actually think most of your writing is really honest, which can sometimes fall off the radar when people know they’re writing for an audience. I’ve been randomly reading, and I really enjoy your site.

  3. you have done a terrific job so far. keep doing it. i like the fact that you have the guts to call it like you see it. bad experiences must be recorded along with the good ones. or else you don’t do yourself (and us) justice.

    sorry for my crappy english.

  4. Hi
    First time I take some time to post a comment. English is not my native language.
    I read yours “adventures” time to time for a couple of years. I have been in Japan for 7 years as student and worker. Your writing about japanese life remember me the nice time I had there.
    Nice work

  5. Always thought it was a potential problem when you spoke about troubles at work and your employers. Thought you might be “overexposed”. I wondered what if they happened upon the site. Not cool for you.

    And have I missed something here? Who have you dated?


  6. David: It’s a good idea, and precisely what I’ve started doing for people with very identifiable names (or people who are particularly well-known in the area). Still, there are always concerns…about how I present MYSELF, for instance.

    Linda + Stefan: Thanks so much for the positive feedback! It really means a lot…you don’t know how much time I put into this thing ๐Ÿ˜›

    Frederic: Hello to a “new” reader! Glad to hear I’m bringing back some fond memories. Whereabouts in France are you from? I’ve spent quite a bit of time there over the years (mostly while younger) ๐Ÿ™‚

    CDog: Yep, which is why I’ve been very careful not to mention the actual name of who I’m working for/with, without prior permission (Dean, for instance, said that he doesn’t mind being mentioned at all…as has Peder). Protecting company privacy is important…and the fact is that people from my previous company HAVE in fact read my blog. These articles are pulled in via feeds to both Facebook and Mixi (a Japanese Social Networking Site), both of which link me to a variety of different contacts.

    I’ve always tried, however, to paint an image of my feelings (in any situation) while being careful to separate what is opinion vs fact. I say that I love Japanese culture, but don’t love working in Japan. Nevertheless, I make it clear that when I commit myself to something, I follow through. And just because I feel a certain way about something – anything – doesn’t by any means imply that’s how it is for everyone.

    One solution I’d considered to this problem was to move to a new URL and make it anonymous, removing all instance of my last name and allowing myself to talk 100% freely about anything. But I feel like at this point that’s pretty much impossible. And I can always remove any specifically problematic articles should the need truly arise.

    …Besides, it’s kind of nice that old friends can pop into Google and find me at a whim. It’s happened on more than one occasion ๐Ÿ™‚

    I guess that is sort of what I was asking though. What may’ve stood out as problematic. And there’s my answer from C-Dog ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Nooooo, what about all the high school students (like myself) living vicariously through this blog?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    All creepiness aside, I really think you have something great here. While I definitely understand the need to protect people’s names and avoid copyright infringements, I don’t think that your “writing candidly” reflects negatively on your public image.


  8. write candidly!!!**

  9. Hi Justin – I found your blog accidentally today and have now spent hours here reading about some of your various adventures. You’ve been many places I haven’t and a few I have and it’s entertaining to read your take on the world and some of the people in it. Your writing is usually very good and in some cases downright excellent and even eloquent.

    As far as your question to your readers is concerned: Aside from last names, which shouldn’t be used without prior permission IMHO, I don’t see any reason why you should censor yourself in any way. People now have this notion that there should be no opinions stated which would offend another, that the world needs to be homogenized and purified and cleansed to the point that no one person’s ideas bother another. I disagree.

    If someone finds it offensive that you see Brazil or Egypt in a certain way because that was your experience of it, they can say that they saw the place differently but they shouldn’t tell you what to write simply because they didn’t like it. That is true censorship and it’s no one’s job to censor your words.

    Why should you pretty up your posts and deny or cenosr your experiences to please others? Aren’t your experiences true and valid and honest? Then write them the way they happen, write your life the way it is and be true to yourself. To hell with the rest of ’em.

    I personally am tired of the new idea that we all have to agree, that no one must be offended, that all stances are equally valid and that we MUST treat all opinions with grave respect. I happen to think that’s crap. We’re all different people, we have differing ways of seeing the world and with any luck we learn and think independently. Why shouldn’t we be able to tell others of our unique viewpoint?

    Here’s a quote I like:

    ‘No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offense.’
    – Thomas Carlyle

    Be true to yourself and offend occasionally.

    Just my two-cents’ worth. *shrug*

  10. Hey Kat,

    Thanks for the kind + thoughtful words…it’s always nice to hear from new readers!

    I’m TOTALLY on the same page as you with “they shouldnโ€™t tell you what to write simply because they didnโ€™t like it.” It’s unfortunate that many people are so closed-minded about opinions other than their own. That said, balancing honesty with offensiveness is always tricky – I’ll just have to keep on doing my best ๐Ÿ™‚

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