A Doggie Dot Com Launched

For months I’ve been using this blog to shamelessly promote and broadcast the message of the Iqaluit Humane Society. I admit that without hesitation. It follows suit with our unofficial motto down there…

“By any means necessary”.

With the unofficial official launch of our website (www.iqaluithumanesociety.com) behind us now I figured it was a good time to explain its evolution and how all of this came to be.

Back when we first arrived in Iqaluit, November of 2010, we were well aware of the robust volunteering atmosphere up here and had were determined to dive head first into community activities. It’s no secret that we’re suckers for animals. Two of the three cats we have are products of a stray we cared for. Heck, even before we departed for the north we executed a rescue operation for yet another stray that frequented our backyard culminating in him being successfully delivered to the Kitchener Humane Society before winter rolled in. It served as a bit of foreshadowing of things to come. We spoke with Bonnie over at the Iqaluit Humane Society when we arrived in town and she told us about the plight of the shelter. Since we were still technically homeless at the time we didn’t feel quite like committing to actual shelter work so we volunteered our services in other aspects. Suzanne offered to help with their paperwork while I proposed setting up “a little website”. I had free space on my host server and an extra domain name to donate so we had what we needed to pull it off. One of the first things I noticed was that the IHS had a very limited web identity with a barely used Facebook group page and a partially completed website that was in construction limbo. This organization needed a serious presence on the Interwebs if they wanted to take advantage of how connected the city of Iqaluit was. Since a good portion of the residents are transient having a website was imperative to maintaining ties with those that come and go.

After an initial meeting with a few of the Directors I started my brainstorming. I received permission from the very cool Curtis Rowland to manipulate his stylistic logo design for the shelter to suit the website needs and I soon started laying out the groundwork. It was after I was placed on the IHS mailing list that I discovered another very serious roadblock – communication. Despite their noble intentions I found my inbox clogged with mail from people I’ve never even met talking about matters I had no clue about. Dozens upon dozens of emails daily on top of the dozens I receive normally from my line of freelancing work. If my mailbox was getting this hammered I could only imagine how it was across the board with a mailing list of over 50 people. The once simple website idea started to get more complicated.

A couple of months passed and I found the website in design purgatory. Not because of a lack of vision but from an incredibly difficult time gathering the information and content needed for the site. You have to understand I’ve said it a bunch of times already but everyone who volunteers at the shelter has ham & egger jobs they must tend to in addition to other various other personal commitments before they can even begin to think about the shelter. Even me. I worked on the website in my spare time between projects. It’s no one’s fault that production go bogged down. It’s just the nature of the beast. It ended up being a game of poking around in the dark until I struck something. To compound the matter I started picking up shifts at the shelter at this point as well. The volunteer pool was dwindling and I filled in where needed. The fact that we were strained for volunteers and had an inefficient communication system prompted me to keep plodding through with the site design.

Our first breakthrough came in the form of our new Facebook page. Iqaluit loves their Facebook so what better way to take advantage of that massive audience than to present a society page for the community to view while the website was under construction. This proved to be a pivotal move because not long after debuting there we started to gather a small fan base. Pictures, status updates and useful information were made available immediately and the public appreciated the effort. Meanwhile back at the website I managed to create a secure login section for the volunteers to use. Current volunteers would be able to register and have access to vital information in a centralized area. Message boards, shift calendars, training material, personal notes, volunteer information… it was all there at their disposal. Unfortunately the display end of the site – aka the part that the every day viewer gets to see – was still bare as a baby’s bum. I couldn’t debut a site with no content so I conceded by making what I had done available to just the volunteers.

The new Volunteer Area was met with mixed reactions. Newer volunteers ate it up. They marveled about the ease of use and the potential it had with regards to improving overall communciation. Veteran volunteers found the transition hard to deal with though. They were so set in their ways of doing things that such a new way of operating ended up being a total shock to the system. This posed yet another major problem for me because only a handful of people were using the site and the rest handled matters the old way which lead us to continued communication breakdowns. Nevertheless I remained persistent with campaigning to get everyone onboard.

I ended up branching the IHS out onto Twitter soon thereafter linking both that and the Facebook account so that any status messages were immediately tweeted. Everyone and their mother are on Twitter so I figured why not. Spreading the word was our biggest goal so it made tactical sense. In a bizarre twist of fate I ended up getting assigned scheduling duties in late June so I seized that opportunity to play dictator and “creatively guide” our volunteers to use the Volunteer Area. No more mass-mailing the schedule calendar around. It would be downloaded at a central location and updated often. Soon after more and more people started to see the light and conformed to the simplicity of the website. Redundant emailing soon dropped to a bare minimum and it allowed us to coordinate on some of the empty areas of the website.

After obtaining what I deemed a “baseline amount of information” I decided to push forward with the site launch. Our Facebook page was growing with Likes and we were getting more and more followers on Twitter. As much as I hate putting unfinished work online I made an exception in this case. It’s a work in progress. Hopefully as we start to infect the minds of more people we’ll start to rebuild our volunteer base and therefore give us an opportunity to square away the unfinished portions of the site. Right now we’re starting to receive more feedback than I’ve seen since starting this whole project. Volunteers are starting to trickle in and our name is popping up more and more across Iqaluit. Hopefully this dream of being more than just “the shelter” is coming to fruition because we’re establishing the Iqaluit Humane Society as more visible public entity.

I wear many hats within the society. I’m a liaison between the directors and volunteers, handle all the web endeavors and communication, set up the shift scheduling and am currently throwing down 20+ shifts this month alone doing grunt work at the shelter. I’ve had some good friends warn me about burning myself out and I can feel the nagging bite of irritability nipping at me from behind. I am burnt out. There is no heading towards it. I’m already there, dude. I don’t do it to be praised for building a website or to get a pat on the back for slaving through shifts. I do it because it needed and needs to be done. That’s why any and all of us do it. Actions speak louder than words and a plan is nothing more than words unless you act on it. I come from the school of thought where I’d rather do something and run the risk of it being an epic fail rather than do nothing and guarantee failure.

Hopefully this little bit of blood, sweat and tears lays down enough ground work for the IHS to build on. If not, oh well. At least something was attempted. Either way I harbor no regrets. I dig the fact that Nunatsiaq News Online made note our newly forged website on their front page.

It’s all about the animals. Love live the IHS.

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Wings, New Yorkers, Dogs, and a Jolie

Yeah. There hasn’t been a post here in a while. We’re well aware of that. Truth be told it’s been an unholy combination of not much to report with a dash of not feeling like writing anything. I’m not a traditional blogger by any stretch of the imagination. I’m an angry blogger. My most lucid work comes as a result of mounds of stress. When we were trapped in a studio apartment at the Capitol Suites with no set destination slated at the end of our tenure – I wrote a lot. When we finally locked down a temporary place but had to move all the stuff we had on hand, plus the Wonder Twins and get prepared for the arrival of the rest of our belongings – I wrote a lot. However, as we’ve settled in and are getting quite familiar with our surroundings, the pace up here and getting used to the general mellow vibe of northern living we’ve grown increasingly complacent.

That’s not so much of a bad thing per say. It’s bad for the people who are waiting to hear fascinating updates on here. For that we apologize. It’s far more relaxing than I could have ever anticipated and while I can’t say it’s not stressful up here, it’s just a different type of stress. So different, in fact, that I haven’t had the proverbial chip on my shoulder for quite a while. It’s usually that chip that speaks to me and prompts me to write here or on my own blog. Without him I struggle in justifying what is “post worthy”. Who wants to hear about everyday dribblings from a web designer in the arctic? It sounds like a bad CBC special.

In any case, I’ll fill you in on some tidbits to keep you up to date…

Ian the Weather Man

In such a small township it’s almost impossible for me to fly under the radar like I normally do. Case in point, I was heading to the Post Office a few weeks back during one of our cold snaps. It was about -31c or so without the wind chill. Maybe -40c with. Basically it was eyeball freezing cold. Yes. I said eyeball freezing. If you walk into a steady breeze for a while on a day like that you can literally feel you eyeballs start locking in place. Anyways, as I get to the steps I’m intercepted by the local CBC reporter. I can’t remember her name for the life of me. I was kind of stymied having a camera pointing at me for the first time ever not to mention the fact that I suck at remembering names anyway. She kindly asked me if I’d like to announce the local weather. I stared blankly at her through my perscription sunglasses and sheepishly blurted out “Uhh.. okay. What do I do?”

She told me that all I had to do is say my name, where I was and “Here’s your local weather”.

I was a deer caught in the headlights. I held the mic and stared through the cameraman waiting for his signal. When he gave me the green light I quickly snapped back into reality and rattled out “Hi. I’m Ian Etheridge and I’m here in Iqaluit… and it’s really cold! Here’s your local weather.” With a point of my finger I shot it back to the studio… or at least that was what I was envisioning in my mind. The cameraman snickered and told me it was perfect. They both thanked me for my participation and let me be on my way. I have no idea if I made it on TV or not. I told Suzanne about my afternoon experience and we tried to catch the local news but finding that in Bell’s array of non-sensical programming is near impossible. We tried to catch it online (since they archive all their daily news shows) but alas, we were again thwarted by the Internot. If you’re interested in trying to find me go to the CBC News North website and try checking out their archived local news from January (possibly the 18th but I can’t recall).

The Iqaluit Humane Society

Suzanne and I decided to put our selves out there by volunteering at the shelter. I don’t know if you can quite call it volunteering in the traditional sense since neither of us are doing any kind of animal handling but we are volunteering our services to help them on the communications, advertising and marketing end. Sub-par communications is the greatest adversary of virtually every business and/or government branch up here. It’s even more rampant in organizations that run off  volunteers who do what they do out of the kindness of their hearts. When Suzanne first told me that she’d been in contact with some of the people who run the shelter I was stoked. It’s no secret that I love animals – even more so than people at times – so anything I could do to help I was in for. That comes in the form of re-inventing the shelter’s image and making it more of a prominent visual figure in the community. That’s where my web design skills come in handy. I’m in the process of reconstructing their website and enhancing the way volunteers communicate with one another. It’ll be one tool of many to help put the IHS back on the map. We’re even going to establish a Facebook presence to keep people up to date with local events and fundraisers. Social media and net presence will help the IHS reach the untapped resources of the net community. It’s not an easy task to undertake, especially pro bono. I’ve got pay-projects already on the go so there’s no set time-table for when everything will be completed but we are making headway. The only downside to all of this is that I run on New York time and everyone up here runs on Iqaluit time so things only get done as fast as I’m given information. Nevertheless keep checking back every so often. You never know what you might find.

Wing Night in Iqaluit

Last Wednesday Missy decided to treat Suzanne and I to a time-honored tradition here in Iqaluit – Wednesday Wing night at the Storehouse. I’d heard much about it in the couple of months we’ve been here but haven’t had an opportunity to check it out till now. Wing Night is a raucous event. Not because the wings are so spectacular, but because the prices are so good – even for up here. 10 wings for $5. That’s a deal you can’t even find down south without digging.  Now you match those prices up with the fact that it’s WEDNESDAY Wing Night (meaning Wednesday is the only time you’re gonna get some good priced wings in town) you have the makings of a lineup that rivals that of one to the bathroom at halftime of a hockey playoff game.

Since The Miss is our go-to Queen of All Things Iqaluit she got us there early so we wouldn’t have to be waiting in line for the entire night. While standing there conversing amongst ourselves, I hear a voice faintly ask one of us something. It sounded like Are you from New York?. I looked down at my chest and realized I had on my circa 1950 old school New York Giants sweatshirt so I looked around and saw where the question had come from. A parka clad gentlemen in front of us smiled and asked the question again, to which I replied “Yup… well me at least.”

He quickly retorted with a “Me too”.

Go figure. I find a fellow New Yorker way the hell up here in the arctic. Two New Yorkers walk into a bar in Iqaluit. Sounds like the start of an awful joke, eh? We immediately welcomed him into our group as we marched in with the second wing night wave of people. All of us ended up hanging out by the fireplace, scarfing down wings and trading stories for a few hours. Brad is an awesome dude and I promised him I’d post about the utterly random encounter. What I didn’t tell him was that I was going to shamelessly promote his business as well. He and his wife run a Wedding and Event Photography business called Gold Sky Media LLC. It’s based in New York (obviously) and they do really awesome work. I highly recommend you check out their site and take a gander at some of their work.

It ended up being a really enjoyable night full of surprises and firsts. It’s moments like that you can’t make up and end up talking about for the rest of your life. Not to mention the fact that I got to spend the night with Angelina Jolie.

But that’s another story… ;p

The Jolie even thew up gang signs

 

Everything must go!

We were visited by a rep from the moving company on Monday. We gave her a walk-through of the house and let her know what we were taking with us (on the plane) and what we wanted shipped up. In the end she was surprised at how little we had to actually bring (despite the mountains of clutter she bore witness to). We’re allotted something like 6000 lbs (that includes packing materials) but we fell way under that at barely a guesstimated 1400lbs. We were also astonished at how much they’d actually pack themselves. She suggested that we let them do it because then our stuff will be covered under their insurance as opposed to if we packed it up ourselves. We’d only be covered if there was visible damage to the boxes themselves (and even then it would be a minimum) so that was kind of a no-brainer.

With the load of having to do heavy duty packing off our shoulders we were forced to deal with an old but persistent problem – the crap we’re supposed to get rid of. I spent the past couple of weeks boxing, bagging and tagging a good portion of the stuff we’ll be putting into storage. That was the easy part. Seven bags of garbage and four mega loads of recycling later we still have tons of crap to get rid of. Our ultimate plan was to either pitch a good portion of it or bring it down to the local goodwill & second hand stores.

But then I had an idea… albeit a bit late…

Virtual Online Garage Sale

Why give things away or dump them when you can make a buck off them? It’s the North American way. Sure charity and goodwill are good for the soul but it won’t pay the bills or keep us warm up there. There is an online classifieds site I use often to get rid of things locally. It’s called Kijiji. It’s similar to Craigslist in a lot of ways. Since we have so many things to offload and I didn’t feel like making individual ads for each thing I decided to employ my web design know-how to make a bare bones web page with all the  for sale items on and and use Kijiji as our starting referral point. There was a small fee involved with posting a link from there to our site but it was a worthwhile investment. Hopefully we’ll get some bites and get some of this stuff offloaded during Hell Week.