The White Rabbit Press Kanji posterThe more involved I get with my work over at White Rabbit Press, the more I find myself wondering where the line should be drawn between my online-work and my (non-work) online-life. Being responsible for marketing means that of course, I’m doing a lot online for the company. My goal is to spread the word about our products in order that we can further increase sales, and therefore invest even more in new / even better products that our customers are asking for / that we feel are a good idea.

The thing is, I’m finding myself feeling increasingly passionate about what we produce, as the feedback from left right and centre is virtually always extremely positive (I think this is due to a) the fact that so much effort went into making sure that the products were better than all the competition) b) the governing attitude towards customer service within the company). I don’t feel that reluctance to spread the word about my company’s goods / services that I have done in the past, when paid to promote something I didn’t entirely believe in.

I’ve been looking around (online) for examples of others in my situation that I might follow, and see that:

1) The vast majority of people don’t talk about their work at all. If I look through my Twitter friends list, I only know the occupations of a very small minority.

2) There are notable exceptions to this rule, where people have actually taken their company brand and made it a part of their personal brand. There’s a few people on my list working for a certain well-known digital business card company. Their online avatars contain their company logo, they often tweet about their products / company events, and when I meet them they (jokingly) tell me off for not having my digital business card with them.

Now I happen to like and respect these people a lot. I don’t feel in the slightest that they have sold themselves. I admire the marketing work that they are doing, and I don’t feel pressured in any way by them. I applaud their efforts and hope that they carry on as they have been doing (if that’s working for them, which I believe it is because there’s little chance I’ll ever forget about their product!)

Why is this, when usually I might feel antagonistic towards such marketing campaigns?

I think primarily it’s because I know these people in real life, and I know that they are amongst the kindest, most helpful, interesting people I know in Tokyo. I trust that they are good people. therefore I accept what they are doing without hesitation.

So what do I do? Well, I think it would be difficult for me to seperate my online work life and online non-work life entirely, as there is so much cross-over in real life. My employer is also my friend, his friends are my friends, we’re members of this pretty well connected gaijin community.

The company I work for sells materials to help you learn Japanese – many of my friends have an interest in learning Japanese, many already know of White Rabbit Press, many of them already own some of the products!

I think that ultimately, if my motives are good, if I remain true to myself and don’t put myself in situations whereby I feel obliged to sacrifice personal values for the sake of gain, then I can happily operate in both spheres simultaneously.

I think it’ll take a little getting used to and I’ll probably make some slips upon the way, but provided I remain a fundamentally ‘good’ person, everyone should benefit.


p.s. I made a new Facebook page tonight for White Rabbit Press – want to help me in my efforts by joining it?!!!

4 Responses

  1. Since you’re new to your job, your enthusiasm is understandable, but you have to keep in mind that the newness is going to wear off and things will change. Most people don’t talk about their jobs because few are so new at them. Once things become old hat, you tend to talk about it less.

    I used to be pretty enthusiastic about working at our shared former company. In fact, it was what drove me to learn Photoshop, Pagemaker (later InDesign) and Illustrator. I put a lot into making textbooks for them and felt great about it for awhile. After some time had passed though, it was hard to be so excited about it. Reality sets in. Efforts are absorbed, but not rewarded. The types of projects become repetitive. You stop feeling like you’re growing and just like you’re doing the same old thing. What is more, as time goes by, people take your successful results for granted and no longer praise or appreciate what you do and start to focus on increasingly smaller and more petty “failures” rather than big accomplishments. The honeymoon is over and you’re left with the equivalent of being nagged at for not putting the toilet tissue roll on in the underhand fashion. Criticism becomes small and idiosyncratic and your productive capacity is barely considered.

    I’m not saying that will happen to you, but it does tend to happen to most people and is why they don’t intermix personal and professional lives so completely. There’s also the problem of talking about work too much and seeming like you’re just selling your company to your friends rather than treating them like your friends. No one wants to be promoted to when they have a social relationship with someone. If you talk too much about products and not enough about life, you run the risk of alienating people. It’s a fine line which is easy to trip over and fall down because you’re not dealing with what you feel is “too much”, but rather trying to anticipate what your friends are going to perceive is “too much (company promotion).” Since we can’t draw the line for others, it’s just easier not to talk about work much at all beyond the stray comment here or there.

    One reason that I don’t talk about my writing work with the publication I’ve now worked with for nearly two years is that I don’t want to come off as encouraging people to purchase that publication. Even though I enjoy the writing and am excited to see my work sold in a real print magazine, I am subdued about it for fear of coming across like I’m using people to promote myself or those who employ me. This is not to be misunderstood as a lack of enthusiasm for that type of work.

    Just food for thought.

    1. Thanks for the message.

      The enthusiasm may wear off to a certain extent over time. But I think it’s unlikely I could ever feel like a spare part in this company, unlike some companies I could mention!

      Could I perhaps invite you to give away the name of the publication you write for? I’m sure you’ve told me before, but I forget.


  2. Hey man, I’ve had this article saved in my RSS stars for a while meaning to leave a message. First up, congrats on the new job, and glad to see you have found a place you are both happy in and proud to be a part of. As I’ve mentioned to you before, I’m a fan of the kanji cards you guys make – they are the only “faultless” kanji cards that I can find that meet all my criteria. And that kanji poster looks cool too… You guys sell that in Japan (I saw the price is USD)?

    If I can make two, completely unrelated suggestions:

    Because my work is not related to language teaching, or marketing, and I am not the owner or a stakeholder (in terms of ownership) in the place I work at, I show my respect for my job, and control my privacy by keeping my online activity as separate as possible. From my point of view, I’ve learned over the years that even if 99% of people think what you do is fine, it only takes one coworker in a superior position, or one client you deal with for everything to start getting ugly. Plus of course the risks that you take being online in Japan even just with the faceless “angry expat” and 2chan stalker types. This personally has caused me to take a relatively cautious and self conscious approach to my online activity, more than other people who blog that I know, but it gives me peace of mind. I basically consider the worst case scenario of anything that I do, and make sure I cover myself as much as possible. Which doesn’t sound like fun, but when you feel like you are reasonably well protected, it makes being online more fun and stress free. This is what causes me to be relatively sensitive about sharing enough, but not too much personal information online, and that starts with my name and my job. That’s just because that’s what fits my situation of course – what fits yours is entirely your call.

    The second point is totally unrelated. In fact, since you were good enough to share your rather cool workplace, I was wondering if I could suggest a product the good people at white rabbit could/should develop: grammar flashcards.

    I couldn’t find any worth buying and made my own based on a combination of previous years JLPT test questions and answers, and the beginner/intermediate dictionaries of Japanese grammar. It would be great to have flashcard versions of grammar patters in the same way as you get for kanji. I think the plethora of (often mediocre) kanji learning resources around makes people over-focus on kanji for the JLPT and grammar and comprehension in particular often become sources of intense pain. People who realize that grammar is just as hard and worth even more in the JLPT than kanji would go for an easy to study grammar flashcard set, I think.

    Anyway, keep up the blogs and vlogs and happy 2010.


    1. Hiko,

      Thanks so much for the feedback. Appreciate you making time for it 🙂

      Yes, White Rabbit Press ships to anywhere in the world, and although prices are listed in dollars you would just be charged in yen at that day’s exchange rate. The kanji poster is one of our best sellers – I’d have it myself if we had a big enough wall at home!

      Re. your first suggestion: I think you made a good decision there. In a way, I feel it’s too late for me to go that way, as I have put so much out there already, I don’t think I could ever get my privacy back. So far this hasn’t caused me any problems other than a few annoyances. Also, putting myself out there has, I feel, actually been quite beneficial, in terms of character development, and keeping myself accountable.

      But if I could go back to 2000, maybe I’d choose a route similar to yours in terms of online privacy.

      Re. the 2nd suggestion: Genius! What a great idea. I will add it to our list! I hope we can release several new products this year. Grammar cards are a great idea. I’ll let you know when / if we get started on them (my first thoughts are ‘we must do this!’

      Thanks again for your support. We rarely meet, but I really appreciate your friendship. 🙂