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May 3, 2009

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If This Were 1998, This Wouldn't Be So Hard

Following on Robin’s post about Google Profiles, I’ve re-entered this old debate with myself about whether to create a personal web page. It’d be fun, I’m sure, and maybe even useful, but maybe not.

When I first became aware of the internet, the way to show that you were a savvy web-user was to create your own web page. This was where you stored all of your information that you wanted to share with the world: contact info, work stuff, pictures, writings and ideas, and a smartly curated set of links to other sites.

Now, of course, we’ve scattered all of that information all over the web to sites managed by companies (usually) and devoted to that purpose: Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and of course, blogs. Academics (which I am) often keep material on their university pages, but those sites usually aren’t suitable for sharing more than a photo, email address and short set of interests.

Strangely, though, that’s become in a way the preferred style for contemporary home pages — a single page that quickly sends you elsewhere, rather than gathering very much together.

My ideal would be to have a site like Bruno Latour’s, but I don’t have his CV with which to pull it off.

So what say you, Snarkmatrix? How many of you have an all-in-one home page? How does it work for you? If you were putting one together now, how would you do it?

Posted May 3, 2009 at 3:22 | Comments (7) | Permasnark
File under: Marketing, Self-Disclosure


My profile-type page is at the end of this link. It's essentially an aggregrator of the three places I (rarely these days) write things. I'd considered a few other formats, but I felt that a business-card like homepage would be too plain.

Were I to do it again, I might go simpler. I've grown kind of attached to the current format, but I'm hardly convinced that it serves my goals better than something simpler would.

I like the green-blue-orange! Smart way to divide stuff coming from different places. Maybe w/just titles and/or snippets, instead of full posts? Hmm...

That is a thought.

If I were to scrap what I've got I may do a business card with links to the ten latest things I've written underneath.

I think what a site like this will look like depends on what you're trying to do. If I were to be looking for employment (depending on the type), my site would probably become a much barer CV. If I just wanted to send people to other things I was doing, it'd be more like Robin's. I think mine right now is an odd combination of those two: an explanation of who I am and a plea to look at other things I'm doing.

Also, the profile site that really sticks in my mind is an old version of Jakob Lodwick's. It was a color photo similar to the dorktastic one there now, with a short paragraph and a few external pointers. I didn't know who he was when I encountered it, but after seeing it I couldn't forget. Best personal branding I think I've ever seen.

This is a great question. And I really like your page, David. Funny, those College Humor guys have a way w/ the home pages -- I also like Zach Klein's. Same idea: Just a jumping-off point for presences in other places. And a big fat picture.

Mine's in transition right now, but here's what I want the new version to do:

1. Explain concisely and definitely *who I am*. I mean, this is your chance to declare it to the world.

2. Give snippets of *the latest content* I've posted in different places. I like your feeds coming in from various sites, David; in my implementation I think I'll probably restrict it to the single most recent item from Twitter, Snarkmarket, etc., but the idea's the same: Give the page the breath of life.

"Personal branding" is a good theme to bring up, esp given our conversations about it here, in the context of the new liberal arts. I do believe pretty firmly that a personal home page should be just that -- a page -- and so that becomes a cool challenge: How can you make this one page represent you *as you want to be represented in the world* as well as possible? You'd probably want to spend a lot of time on the pure design of it, actually. Is it clean, sparse, minimal? Is it weathered, worn-in? Is it colorful? So much of the modern web is about pure information design... I think a personal home page is actually just as much about graphic design, for once.

We don't all have to wear those giant my-dad-in-the-80s glasses, right?

Okay, so this is what I'm hearing:

  1. A page, not a site. The thing is a portal, not a database.

  2. Maximize graphics -- or at least, graphic intent. One thing I like about Latour's site? He's got pictures of his books. And here's where my CV's shortness could actually help: I could easily generate an image for each article/course.

  3. Something to read. At least the way I'm thinking about the thing now is that it will be a combination online aggregator/dynamic CV. I want to provide titles/snippets of web writing (SM + Twitter + Short Schrift -- maybe, b/c right now SS is basically an archive and host for my SM posts) and also links to organizations I'm involved with (I chair an MLA committee and I'm also involved with the Modernist Studies Association, the Kelly Writers House, and a lecture series called Theorizing) and, of course, publications. In other words, more professional-ish than personal.

I quite like the simplicty of robin's redirect page. I currently have a parked domain that isn't doing anything (except calling for a hobo uprising). Perhaps we must evolve from personal homepages to "Persona Portals."

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