My Own URL

After some intense days this week (three > 2 AM nights, more on that later), it was nice to kick back and just sift through some neglected RSS injected content in my aggregator. So I was reading Gardner Campbell describe In My Life, where he shares the moments of his transition from University of Mary Washington to University of Richmond (just a highway a way, and by the way, Dr. Glu, a big dog nod for making a tough decision).

It struck me as sublimely profound that I was able to read this. No, nothing profound in the technology… much more subtle. It was the fact his thoughts, experiences, etc, are stored at www.gardnercampbell.net where they belong to him and have permanence, or as much web permanence as can be, in a unique identifier that is so over looked… just an URL. So what’s the big deal? It’s still so true that in our professional work, if we choose (or have our hand forced) to change employer, our electronic communication identifier, our email, can be abruptly turned off.

It happened to me when I left Maricopa, my email, which had existed 14 years, was axed just weeks after I walked out the front door. Now, in some sense, this was wonderful, as the daily deluge of spam vanished (or ended up somewhere else). At my new gig, my spam is a tiny, trickle, with all the force of the Salt River in Phoenix in mid June (if you’ve ever flown into town, the airport flies over this “river” which is a dry channel of rocks, old shopping carts, and a few brave desert shrubs).

But I digress into useless metaphor.

The fact that Gardner has built a good portion of his online ID on a web domain he owns, he can have as much permanence as he desires (or can pay for monthly ISPs), even in email address. It’s not to say that work/university emails are useless, but they are a vessel for one’s professional communications (mostly). In the old days, when email was novel, there was little reason to have more than one account. Today, I can estimate I have 5-7 personal and blog related emails, plus 2-3 at work.

But maintaining web URLs to me, are 100 times more important than dealing with changed or dead email addresses. This week, I was researching and pulling together a bunch of web resources we are cataloging (tagging in del.icio.us), and I came across one set that was compiled perhaps 3 years ago– maybe a page of 20 links, of which, by title alone. were perfect for our project.

Out of those 20, 19 were bad, dead. Some, one could guess, were vaporized because they were in some personal directory (a ~jones) under some .edu site, so someone graduates or moves to a new university, AXE goes their content. Others, and quite a few, were online journals, newspapers that only post content for a short time, AXE goes the archive. It seems insane to be doing some anal house cleaning; the cost of disk space being really not a valid argument to me at all. The ultimate internet lesson has been the power in many people being connected in many ways to many things. Why rip out that entropy?

Now it’s one thing to take down a silly web page, some poem one wrote for their pet ferret, but to take down an academic paper, or a research review, just seems insanely… stupid, to the collective way the web builds a vast archive of useful… stuff (as well as ferret poems).

But it goes even farther, and to me the catch-22 of electronic portfolios- I cannot really see much personal investment into documenting one’s self on some other system, unless you feel extremely content (a) it will not be yanked or (b) you cannot extract it in a form that will be useful. The popularity of photo sharing sites, blog hosts lies deeply in the realm of how much it belongs to the individual, with the larger group payoff a layer behind, but if it is ours, we can have some say over the longevity of the humble URL.

Preserve your URLs, keep ’em breathing.

And really, when I sat down to type this, I was wanting to give a glowing tribute to Gardner, someone I consider a colleague, have had numerous exchanges, and maybe met in person twice. Yet, he has established a proper permanence in URL-space, that is available to all. I call that a Bargain, the best I ever had.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff 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. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. Being younger I started email long before I had a job that provided email – in fact I’ve used my own domain for the last 6 years (though sadly the original one lasted a year, then I jumped to pftqg.com, which I’ve had for 5 years now. I had an email address at my last work, though I never gave it out to anybody (other than mozilla’s bugzilla, and by sending emails). I suppose people are kind of used to the way people address them changing (very few of us live at the same address all our lives, each time we move our phone numbers change – in moving to Canada I finally gave up the cellphone number I’d had for 4 years).

    I’ve tried really hard to keep links working (I’ve got redirects that keep links from late 2001 working) though, I figure if there’s one thing I can working (my email, web links), then people will always find me. (Which could be scary, if I was paranoid.)

  2. When I was finishing grad school in 2001 I purchased my own domain. I had already lost my email from my ugrad insitution, so I didn’t want it to happen again. I figured I would be switching jobs through my career and this was something I would always have.

    Since then I’ve changed webhosts twice, but always keep my email and site up. Soon I’ll be doing more with it (after years of neglect), but I agree there is much value in having your own domain.

  3. In terms of electronic portfolios you are quite right, we need a way of being able to export out of any e-Portfolio system and into any other e-Portfolio system, making that content transferable.

    In the UK there is lots of talk, and lots of projects on ‘Lifelong Learning’, together with PDP’s and e-Portfolios, looking at ways in which an e-Portfolio system could be set up and maintained the life of the user. Similiar is being worked on in different parts of the world. Whether it will ever come off maintains to be seen.

    You are right that at this point in time, for most people if they put time and effort into building an e-Portfolio, often they have no way of maintaining this. Some systems offer the ability to export your files out, and then you must buy your own webspace to put these files, great for those of us who are tech savvy, but for many students i see all this work disappearing from the public domain.

  4. Yikes, D’arcy! Don’t sue me for infringement of prior art of blog posts!

    (PS- Still trying to figure out WTF SK2 hits you for comment moderation- I am convinced it fails a PHP statement with that apostrophe in your name, so I tried reposting that last one sans apostrophe…)

  5. Alan, right back atcha. It’s colleagues like you that help me believe I really can do this new job (heck, that I really could do the old job!).

    And I agree wholeheartedly to what you’re saying here about domains. Several of us here have been talking about having students select their own domains when they enter college, and learn to manage their own web presence as part of their overall learning in higher education and beyond. That’s a conversation I’d love to have–soon.

    In the meantime, Dr. Glu sends his warmest regards and deepest gratitude to you and the whole community you sustain. And thanks a bunch, D’Arcy, for your blog post and the link to the Waldman piece–required reading for sure.

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