Last week I posted some “interview” questions for educators who have their own self-hosted domain; here are a few first responses.

My idea for doing this is to give some wisdom of others who have gone down this road to our participants in the Ontario Extend project supported by eCampus Ontario.

These participants working towards their collection of module badges, and more generally looking to network with other Ontario educators, are blogging their work. And we are aggregating posts in our own blog hub. Many are getting their blogging chops going with free, hosted blogs, but we have available for, those ready for it, the chance to have two years of hosting their own domain, all provided by eCampus Ontario.

Still the question is, beyond the what, but why? So in the response bin:

Sandy Brown Jensen (mindonfire.us) is an artist, storyteller, long time community college teacher in Oregon, and ds106 participant. In her domain interview, Sandy gives a why

One thing I have noticed is that a lot of people in the wide circles of my acquaintances and life activities Google me, and when they do, I want them to land on a blog of my latest creative work, which is a different motivation for keeping it up than just garnering comments. It is my online reputation and resume, and it works for me in surprising ways.

as well as a poetic rationale

Having your own domain needs to spring from your own desires: as a way to talk back to the world; as a way to talk to yourself while allowing others to listen in; as a way to document your passage through this all-too-brief passage of light that is your life.

Thanks Sandy! Through connections, Sandy and I have become friends, and we have visited each other’s homes.

From Scotland, primary school educator John Johnston (johnjohnston.info) titles his response A Kingdom of One’s Own.

I got to know John too through DS106, and his clever inventions, experiments, and playfulness with media has been my fortune to know. On a trip a few years ago to Scotland, I got to sit in John’s kitchen and geek out in person.

Like many, John did start out on free services (blogger) but eventually hot his own domain. His urge to consider domains rings to his nature as a real Experimenter

I like the idea of my own space more than a domain. I like futzing. It is important, to me, to have one place. Sites in silos, or aol, or tilde spaces are fine playgrounds.but services go away. The domain is just an address pointing to my messy kingdom where I can do what I want, if I can.

I find great value in having my blog go back for years. I search it often. If I’d trusted a silo my content might have vanished by now.

Ideally everyone would get a domain automatically. Obviously this would make for a lot of domains.

Colin Madland (madland.ca) educator and technologist in British Columbia also answered the call for responses.

I guess these are all people I know, as I got to meet and work with Colin in 2014 when I had a fellowship at Thompson Rivers University.

Colin has two domains and a collection of sites with in. His reasoning for having a domain includes:

I appreciate the freedom and flexibility of having control over my domain. I have learned a tremendous amount from making mistakes and having to troubleshoot through them to come to a resolution. The experience of trying to export my old blog from Blogger was a little ridiculous, and it is nice to know that I could pick up and go with relative ease with my current setup.

In order to succeed and persist, new domain owners will need an active community around them that is willing to be open and generous with their experience and their difficulties.

Aaron Davis (https://readwriterespond.com), k-12 educator in Melbourne Australia, is someone who I’ve crossed paths with many places online. I got to meet him in person last November when I visited Melbourne.

Aaron is very much a technical experimenter and is very interested in affordances of this thing called the IndieWeb. He was very much influenced by a network of educators, and made a leap from Blogger to his own domain:

In part, my domain name comes from my interest in the notion of marginalia, the stuff that we write, but never gets written. As J. Hillis Miller explains:

“As we read we compose, without thinking about it, a kind of running commentary or marginal jotting that adds more words to the words on the page. There is always already writing as the accompaniment to reading.”

And also, I added my own response, as I believe in doing the very thing I ask others to do.

Pretty much you can see that people who have responded so far are ones from my learning network, and that alone says a lot about cultivating a thing. And there is irony, that every one who responded is someone who these online connections led to in person meeting, and friendship as well.

Chris Aldrich (https://boffosocko.com/) has a domain name I love, one with a story involving Muppets, one that makes you curious.

And now we get into the category of People I Know Online and Have Yet to Meet.

Thanks for your interview responses, Chris.

Chris is an active advocate and practitioner of the Indie Web movement, like just that selecting this chunk of text in his post, offers not only a means to annotate it with Hyothes.is but also a url to deep link to the selection:

Generally I do everything others would do on any one of hundreds of other social media websites (and I’ve got all those too, though I use them far less), but I’m doing it in a centralized place that I own and control and don’t have to worry about it or certain pieces of functionality disappearing in the future.

I can totally nod in agreement with the metaphor of Commonplace Book:

In large part, I use my website like a modern day commonplace book. It’s where I post most of what I’m thinking and writing on a regular basis and it’s easily searchable as an off-board memory. I’m thrilled to have been able to inspire others to do much the same, often to the extent that many have copied my Brief Philosophy word-for-word to their “About” pages.

And I must just end up wholesale quoting Chris’s post:

Collecting, learning, analyzing, and creating have been central to academic purposes since the beginning of time. Every day I’m able to do these things more quickly and easily in conjunction with using my own domain. With new tools and standards I’m also able to much more easily carry on two-way dialogues with a broader community on the internet.

I hope that one day we’re able to all self-publish and improve our own content to the point that we won’t need to rely on others as much for many of the moving parts. Until then things continue to gradually improve, so why not join in so that the improvement accelerates? Who knows? Perhaps that thing you would do with your domain becomes the tipping point for millions of others to do so as well?

The Story of My Domain

That last part is not strictly related to domain, but there is a connection.

William Ian O’Byrne (wiobyrne.com) started with a domain required for a doctoral degree program, but also spent time working on a few other platforms before “bringing it all home” to his own domain.

As I mentioned earlier, when I first started this journey, I did it because it was a requirement for my doctoral program. But, as time advanced, I wondered why I should not respond or comment on news in my area of inquiry. Why shouldn’t I get involved, make my voice heard, and share out opinions and work online.

As something he teaches it makes sense to be “in the game”:

Having a domain is important to me as I research, develop, and teach. My main area of focus is the literacy practices of individuals in online and hybrid spaces. As such, it’s important (IMHO) for me to “walk the walk…and talk the talk.” I should build and experiment in online publishing, and explore the impacts on my digital identities.

William notes that what he finds important in the careers of academics, to hone and manage their representation online, is not really taught to newly minted professionals:

Finally, keep in mind that most of us are not taught to do this in the preparation for our careers. We should be, but we’re not. Most of the people developing and facilitating these educational and career prep programs are trying to figure all of this out for themselves…let alone teach you. We need to develop a domain that we control and put in the same amount of polish that we do our offline identities. Offline, we pick out a certain outfit, shoes, and hairstyle that fits our persona. We have a certain way that we want to be viewed, and select options, or habits that help create that persona. Online, we’re often a mess of half-formed elements and inconsistent information that doesn’t share the “real” version of your digital identity. Think about the version of you that you want to create…and make it happen.

Even More Stories

Now they are coming in! Here are all responses saved as a Twitter Moment.

Got a domain story to share? If you are participating in Ontario Extend and your blog is connected to our hub just post with a tag of whydomain and the magic of tags will add it to our collection. If you are from elsewhere, please tweet to @ontarioextend with a #whydomain hash tag (see responses).

I’d sure love to hear more stories, especially from people I don’t know.

And for closing, I reference a post Aaron linked to, from API Evangelist Kin Lane (kinlane.com) about Many Perspectives On Internet Domains

Many folks have no idea what a domain is. That they type them in regularly in their browsers, click on them, let alone that you can buy and own your own domain. This illiteracy actually plays into the hands of tech entrepreneurs, and each wave of capitalists who are investing in them–they do not want you knowing the details of each domain, who is behind them, and they want to make sure you are always operating on someone else’s domain. It is how they will own, aggregate, and monetize your bits, always being the first to extract any value from what you do online, and via your mobile phones.

I am captivated by this version of our online world that is unfolding around us. What worries me is the lack of understanding about how it works and some awareness of where they are all operating when online. People don’t seem concerned with knowing what is safe, what is not. What worries me the most is that number of people who don’t even have the concept of a domain, domain ownership, and any sense of separation between sites online. After that, the misuse, misinformation, and obfuscation of the digital world by people operating in the shadows and benefitting from ad revenue. I know many folks who would argue that we need to create safe spaces (domains) like Facebook where people can operate, but I feel pretty strongly that this is an Internet discussion, and not merely a platform one.


Featured image: Many-Perspectives-on-Internet-Domains-Kin-Lane.jpg by Aaron Davis used as his blogged response to the interview questions

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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