Like everyone, I harbor fantasies about how interesting I am, and if I run into you at the pub, I'll talk your ear off about the places I've been and the things I've done, but if I'm objective about it, none of it is particularly praiseworthy, and it's hardly going to make me stand out to a potential employer. Any attempt to dramatize my life or skills is going to reek of pomposity, even the rare bits that are somewhat unique.
I'm not a designer. I'm not a visual person. Any attempt to fashionably describe myself is going to backfire. My resume is a good overview of my skills and experience, but if I try to turn that into an online portfolio, it's not going to be any more impressive. If I don't keep it up to date, and remodel it constantly to keep up with contemporary fashions, it's going to make me look old and out of touch.
I have an exceedingly common first and last name, so I'm hard for employers to find online. I'm happy about this. I don't want employers scrutinizing my social media presence, as benign as it is. I would never give a potential employer any of my online IDs if they asked.
If you've got something to say or show and you want your own home page, go for it. I don't think most people actually have enough interesting content to warrant it, though, and I'm pretty sure that I don't.
The main goal of my blog was not to be interesting or show off (even though I do include my side projects etc.), but to write about specific issues I managed to solve. As a software developer, I'm googling for problems all the time. 95% of the time I land on StackOverflow or GitHub issues. But it's about those 5% that I find a blog post which really helps me. My goal was to contribute back the same way.
If you don't like to actively maintain a blog, just set up a GitHub repo + GitHub Pages (or even go for plain GitHub Gists). As long as the information can be found via a search engine, it's good enough.
Finally - don't create a blog just because you feel obliged to. It's totally fine as a developer not to have a blog.
YES! So much of our computing-related triumphs come from documentation that other people wrote. Even super basic stuff that no senior developer or sysadmin would dream of asking, that stuff still needs to be written down by someone.
I have a dozen or so Markdown documents of varying sizes that I need to finish, proof and polish before putting them online. I sorely lacking in motivation (and sleep)
I started this file 17 years ago!
This is enough to fill three average sized novels!
One day... I might have a go at weaving a narrative through it.
Each entry is preceded by the date the entry was made, and followed by a reference to the source.
Because I’ve used some of the material multiple times I’m vaguely aware of the overall structure, and I use it as a bit of a knowledge-base.
As an example I’ll probably pop this comment in there later, so some of the materiel is mundane. Some of it seemed profound in the context of my life at the time, but might make less sense years later out of context.
I’ve only ever deleted a handful of entries in that 17 years.
I guess parts of it are a bit like a diary too, but I’ve never been very good at intentionally keeping a diary.
I've been doing this for years (on paper, no less) without knowing that it had a name.
Edit: Here's an article that gave me some good ideas about different things to do with my book.
Commomplace book - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonplace_book
That's what they all say.
Humans are social creatures and the main motivator for anyone to do anything in public is to "show off" or "be interesting". "All is vanity".
That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Without a desire to compete, impress, prove our worth and so on we'd be living in huts. But it's something to be aware of and something that should be tempered.
I think the pendulum is swinging away from modesty plus self-reflection and towards "people documenting their lives in public".
The part you are correct about is that it is easy to then get wrapped up in how many visitors your blog gets or how many upvotes your answer gets. Those vanity metrics definitely pull on the vanity strings. But, some people definitely do not care about "showing-off" when they put something up online.
If you don't care about showing off then you won't publish anything. People who are actually altruistic won't tell you about their altruism.
This isn't cynicism. The hunger for respect, admiration and recognition is not a bad thing. But it is necessary for people to understand what motivates them. And it is necessary for us to construct a society in which respect is earned by performing actions that are broadly beneficial to that society (as far as we can estimate, anyway).
Today, anyone can broadcast. But that doesn't mean that everyone should broadcast. The old gatekepers weren't perfect but they served a necessary purpose. Who are the new gatekeepers?
My point is that I think your thesis is too cynical. Many people start out writing their blogs or answer questions on public forums with the intent of trying to help other people out. The motivation can be of the form "I solved this problem and I am going to write about it because maybe my solution will save someone else time" rather than "I solved this problem and I am going to write about it so that everyone visits my website and I get famous." Maybe they become more motivated by vanity and blog metrics later on if their blog takes off. But, many people write stuff online with the intent to help others out and not solely out of hunger for respect, admiration and recognition.
> Today, anyone can broadcast. But that doesn't mean that everyone should broadcast. The old gatekepers weren't perfect but they served a necessary purpose. Who are the new gatekeepers?
You lost me here.
In general, there is no such thing as altruism. You always get something out of helping others that keeps you going. Nobody is truly selfless. Altuists are the species which died out long time ago.
I want to agree, but how can we explain near-anonymous StackOverflow profiles who have brilliant answers in them, but no way to identify who the actual person they are?
The fact that everyone ultimately wants peer-approval means we need to create participatory structures in which people are rewarded (with approval) for doing useful things. Stackoverflow is a perfect example of this. People gain karma by answering questions that other people ask.
"Everyone should have a blog" is the opposite of this. It's feel-good nonsense along the lines of "everyone has their own subjective truth and all truths are equal". If we tell everyone to publish it will become near-impossible to find voices worth hearing. It's like saying you should answer every question on stackoverflow whether or not you know the answer.
People see different facets of our identity, only God sees all of them.
In some cases our limited online presence might represent a more authentic version of our 'true selves' than we present in [the rest of] "real life".
>"it will become near-impossible to find voices worth hearing" //
Isn't the OP saying there that we all have a voice worth hearing. You're right that it would be harder to find the voices we could extract the most value from; but realistically that's probably already impossible.
Just like in real life; I'll underwhelm the average sleuth with the amount of badges I have vs. the work I've actually done.
I don't agree here. Perhaps "not everything should be broadcast" might be better?
I would posit that the new gatekeepers are algorithms. For example, Google search algorithms, Youtube recommendations, Facebook news feed Edgerank, etc.
There's a distinction between self promotion and genuine honest expression of who we are, what we presently think is true.
I feel like there is something fundamentally human when people try to do that with each other.
As someone who has actually lived in a hut, I would like you to know that living in huts should not be used as a derogatory example. In fact hut living was the best time of my life and I long to replicate the simplicity and freedom it afforded.
I think that's demonstrably far too broad of a brush. Yes, this is a very common motivator, but it's hardly universal.
Surprisingly the error code drew a ton of traffic compared to anything interesting I could have possibly thought about writing.
Keeping everything on a site that I am in control of eliminates the issues of uncertainty.
(I do answer direct questions on Stack Overflow and such, I just don't keep my accumulated works or investigative notes on third party sites.)
I also like to write about ideas I strung together that I sourced from books, podcasts, and other posts. I followed the same path as OP in regards to blogging in early 2000's then kinds letting my site languish. I have been trying to write a bit more over the last year.
I have found that checking out the analytics on the blog from time to time also helps me guage what topics to write about.
This is the main reason that I keep a personal website.
Who would learn more? The one who searches for answer or the one who answers questions?
I think the greatest value in writing things down is to order and articulate your own thoughts. Certainly in my own case, I never finish a large chunk of articles I start to write simply because during the research I find out I was wrong, or that things are more complex than I thought and I'm no longer sure I'm right.
See my personal website for a post I wrote about that :-) https://arp242.net/weblog/why-write.html
An additional reason is that publishing your thoughts also means people can point out flaws or points you hadn't considered. Maintaining a website is just one way of doing that of course (commenting here is another), but I find it's a pretty effective way.
Yeah! And remember to back it up. I had a blog in the early days when it was all new, and bitterly regret not backing it up properly - 5 years of content gone.
That way, I always have an offline copy without having to remember to make one specifically.
That said, it's needless verbiage, and removing "at the start" made the paragraph better.
Blogging for me isn’t about popularity. It’s about being able to share ones ideas and document your interests. I send links to my blog all the time, because I wrote about topics I found challenging / fun. I don’t think it’s the best, but it is my own thoughts.
Speaking of which... I’ve written about learning through storytelling and blogging.
I used to have a blog or two back in the day and two things I noted back then was:
1. If I figured something out that I hadn't found a solution to elsewhere on the net people would find their way to my site. No further SEO necessary. (I don't know if this would work anymore.)
2. Sometimes I would Google  a weird problem and find my own page.
: yep, that's what I did until three years ago or so)
FTR I never made any money on this. It wasn't that popular.
Also I recently started writing again at https://erik.itland.no just to contribute some stupid posts like those you'd find on the old web I used to like. Hopefully I can start adding some links to stuff I like to read as well, and deliberately not add any dum nofollow or other stupid CEO. My wesite, not Googles :-]
Could we have a tread were everyone who wants posts their imperfect personal web sites? Or has there been one and I have missed it?
If we all did we could soon have something really awesome going on.
If there ever was a good time to do this again it seems to be now.
This still works. I wrote about a topic awhile back o help me understand it and when I search for the topic, my post still appears in the search results.
I didn’t write it to get to the top of any search result but for myself so I could understand it. Now when I see the post there, I’m glad that I’m not the only one who benefitted. As other people have pointed out:
Write. Put it out there. Do it for yourself first and not to be popular. If it helps you, it might help someone else. And who knows, someone else might even point out something you didn’t know before.
Hmm... let's call it a Personal Open Document (POD) or something like that.
I took a deep dive at one point into understanding concurrent transaction behavior in MySQL and its ramifications. Probably go back and reference that post about once a month...
I think it's a good idea to have a personal web site. If someone wants to find out more about you, they have a chance of hearing your side of the story: what's interesting to you, what you've shared with the world, and so on. If you only post on Facebook, Twitter, etc., then when those sites disappear or change their terms of service your information doesn't disappear. Do you want those companies in complete control of what others learn about you, or do you want to have some control? There are many former powerhouses of social interaction that have since disappeared, including MySpace, AOL, Google+. But if you own your own web site, you decide if it will remain available, not someone else, and what it will say.
You don't need to be "interesting". Everyone is probably interesting to someone anyway, and I think that's the wrong thing to strive for. Instead, think of things that you could share that might be useful to someone else, and share them. If you've helped someone else, then you've provided value to the world, and that's all anyone can ask for.
There's no requirement that you keep everything "up to date". Put a date on what you release, modify it if you update, and that's that. If it was released 20 years ago, it'll make the time clear. And really old stuff can still be really useful.
I just Googled myself, and my home page returns the top rank to me. Sure, it might not to others, but clearly it's possible to be easily findable even with a somewhat common name.
Regarding "enough interesting content"... you don't need to have a lot of interesting content. Post at least one thing that you believe helps at least one other person. Now your site has value to someone else. To me, that's enough.
I disagree. Your thoughts on this topic have gone to the top of HN. To me, that implies you're interesting enough to be able to write thoughtful pieces that a bunch of other online armchair commentators agree with and upvote :)
Don't sell yourself short, friend!
Even some of the most well known writings in computer science are just that, like the short article by some guy frustrated with everyone using goto instead of functions/while/for/etc (the article that inspired countless "... considered harmful" headlines).
Turns out a few things I've written about have actually been very helpful and useful to a handful of other people in the world, and they even emailed me to thank me for sharing it! That was pleasant. I'm not looking to be famous or popular, but it felt good knowing that something I had done helped a few other people out.
 My styles are based on this: https://github.com/programble/writ
It's basically Web 1.0 but made to look nice and read well on large screens.
I'm a UX designer in my professional life but the last thing I wanted was a slick, trendy, bloated site. My site is completely static and loads blazingly fast. The CSS is simple too so it should play nice with user-agent styles too.
Isn't that good UX design? Or are fast-loading sites a taboo in the UX field?
It certainly is!
> Or are fast-loading sites a taboo in the UX field?
Pause for a moment on this one. Why would it go out of date?
The oldest content currently listed on the front page of my website is from 2005. What is in it has not gone out of date in the slightest. In fact, nothing from the intervening fourteen years has gone out of date. I could probably dig back through archive.org and pick out some more from sites I had back in the 1990's that would still be perfectly good, up to date content today.
If what you're writing is substantive, not gossip, there is no reason to think about it going out of date. Just don't wrap it in a blog format where the structure of the site makes it look like it's going out of date.
I don't write for anyone, or because I think I'm an interesting person. If it help someone, good, but the main purpose is to help myself.
I don't really write a lot and I don't think I should write on regular basis. I just write when I need it.
Of course you might not feel the need of doing that, but having that tool helped me a lot personnaly and professionnaly.
Instead, I just send pictures of the stuff to those closest to me via SMS or other social networks, and call it a day. I don't need the whole world to know about my personal interests.
If I decide to try to make money from any of those hobbies, then I would start a blog or portfolio for that, but that'd be business, not personal.
Writing HN comments is much easier than writing blog posts because the inspiration is the story that's been linked to; for a blog post you don't have that starting point, you just have a blank page. That's a heck of a barrier for most people when they're starting out.
 I know. I did it on purpose.
It's incredibly hard to search HN comments via search engines too, but I've definitely come across comments that just made me stop and think.
My wife and I are fairly boring people. I'm a sysadmin and fill-in sales rep at work, she works for the local government. Our hobbies are run of the mill; she reads and reviews the books she's read, I tinker with embedded computing projects and niche operating systems, and in the past have written (but not published) short fiction.
She maintains a review blog she started a few years ago when she wanted to connect better with the authors and fellow reviewers she was in contact with on Facebook and Twitter. It has taken off as far as such sites can, and while it takes up a ton of her free time after work and on weekends, we balance with time together as well. She makes absolutely no money from it (she hates the idea of ads on her site) and honestly I agree with her; she would feel like it was a second job if she tried to monetize it. Still, she does it because she enjoys the back-and-forth she gets with authors, and she often gets to meet some of her personal heroes in real life at conventions and release parties. I'd say having a personal website has helped her feel fulfilled outside of a boring day job and I'm all for it, even though it means less time spent doing things together. It makes that time together even more precious and fulfilling.
Oh, and as for me...I did start a writing blog several years ago but writing fell to the wayside and I haven't posted anything in a couple of years. I've thought about ditching that altogether and blogging about embedded projects instead, but I have more fun doing the hobby itself than I would writing about it. I'm not a very social person and I don't have any social media accounts (unless this site and my sporadic activity on OSNews counts), and overall I feel I'm a pretty boring guy outside of niche circles. I'm also not job hunting nor am I in a hiring role at work, so I don't feel the need for my info to be out there.
This is a real problem.
I tend to always have at least one hobby project going on that I know would be of interest to a wide group of people (such as the smartphone I'm currently building).
However, I don't like to document the projects as I go along, because it makes the project more difficult and time-consuming to accomplish, and I start to feel pressure to make sure that I'm providing regular updates -- which turns the hobby into a sort of job.
Instead, I prefer to document dump all my notes and sketches, and put the code and schematics up, after I've completed the project entirely. This means that I don't have a great deal of "work in progress" photos and the like, and that my post is not useful for people who want to see the process of development itself, but it's a compromise that works for me.
There was a writer (sorry, forgot who), that used to say: it's not that your life is not interesting, it's that you don't have a good storyteller to tell it.
Good storytellers can spin up a great story out of seemingly very boring facts. It's just the way you tell it.
Most youtubers/streamers/influencers are not really saying anything particularly cool or interesting, but they know how to tell it to their audience.
It's very similar to marketing/product. You need a decent product to sell, but most of the success will come from being able to properly market it, not from how good the product is.
In this case, you and your experiences are the product, the stories about them and how to tell them are the marketing.
You can definitely learn how to tell better stories.
One last analogy, you know when someone tells a joke and it's just not funny at all? Then your hear someone else tell exactly the same joke, but now it's actually really funny? The difference is not the joke, but they way they tell it.
As you implied, that's kind of like a secret weapon. No bored middle manager can Google you and not hire you because they didn't like the wording of a DIY forum post about your plumbing 9 years ago.
If you think yourself less interesting than you seem, then perhaps being less known and is a better option :)
Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
For topics I'm an expert at, or at least an old timer, I'm well aware I'm worse at teaching those topics than someone who more recently learned and I wouldn't even bother trying to document or teach that stuff.
Find your edge, push a bit beyond it, chmod a+r your notebook, more or less.
Granted that most people's lives don't serialise down well into a regular stream of weekly episodes. If one can put aside the requirement to "be someone" on the internet, I think maintaining a personal site can be a really great form of self expression, albeit with a few provisos.
That said, I wonder if the things I find interesting, smart, or well articulated are thought of that way by the author.
If the author knows it and I don't, maybe the author thinks it's obvious where I find it surprising.
That, or you might feel pressurized into finding some interesting hobbies or pastimes. The horror!
I think it’s an equally delightful experience to journal about things though. I do it from time to time, when some subject just needs to get written down, almost as though the journaling is me thinking out loud on something. I could certainly do this in an old fashioned journal, or keep things to myself, but in my experience, I’ve learned a lot about something by having to write about it in a way that anyone could read. Which includes explaining things that are obvious to me, but not to you.
I know it’s not for everyone, and I respect that, but if you do think out loud, then do us all a favour and share the things that are most important to you. I think it’ll help keep the internet much more interesting in the age of social media.
If we can find it anyway, with google down-prioritising personal blogs.
Once, in the functional programming rabbit-hole, a coworker advocated for a hypothetical Indian food truck named Haskell's Curry.
And when I was studying propositional logic I certainly wouldn't have said no to a side of De Morgan's ColesLaw.
It's an endless source of entertaining ideas. "Moscow Mueller", "Manafort on the Rocks", "Cohen Kvass". Or you can go for drinks that are flavored after their namesakes: dry, sweet, bitter, sour.
Park it in front of Trump Tower on central park, and Instagram fame would be instantaneous! Feel free to steal my idea.
A series of disasters hits the restaurant before its ultimately opening (fire, pests, etc) and the respondents (exterminator,etc.) has a new, funny name each time. Also, the neighboring stores' names vary in funny ways.
Ages ago, in the age of Usenet, I had a huge collection of such bits (plus quotes of others) for use in .signature files.
Gyros and Villains
Hmm, where have I possibley seen this before? :)
Or worse, you expressed an off-hand opinion about some social issue back in 2006 in an otherwise technical blog post that the wrong person stumbled upon and now the world is going to cave in on you.
I would love to write more, but censoring myself for the sake of future employers, psychos, etc. tends to make anything I do produce come off as bland and uninteresting.
Political views have never been much of a problem for me. I’m strongly opinionated, but I also work in the public sector, which means I leave my personal political views completely out of my professional life. That is certainly a form of self-censorship, but even though it it’s forced upon public servants, I can’t think of a single time I regret keeping my political opinions to myself. There are certainly political movements I wouldn’t work for, but over all it rarely seem like a good idea to get into politics unless you actually want to make a career out of it.
Just write about your favorite hobby. When I started my personal blog a decade ago (yikes...), I chose a topic and made a rule that I would stick to it. No politics, no tech, no personal drama. I still enjoy writing about it, and have almost always stuck to the rule, so I don't think an employer could take offense at any of the several hundred thousand words I wrote.
You want to maintain a certain image for employers and that restricts your freedom to rant.
I don't point potential employers to my personal website (which I also don't associate with my real name). It's just none of their business. When I want to share work that I've done, I put it into a standalone presentation that I provide on a memory stick.
Hmm, I wonder if there's a search engine tailored to this sort of thing? As in search all the blogs for human knowledge and experience.
How possible would it be, to build something like this?
The hard thing is distinguishing personal blogs from blogspam and other worthless content. Performance is a huge issue since you want to spend at most double digit milliseconds per page, but maybe it's getting viable with ML becoming commoditized. But getting this perfect would make or break the project.
I understand if one's full name combination is too common to show every personal website, but I feel like if a unique name is googled, or there's one or two decidedly well known person(s) of that name, and that person has authored a personal site, search engines should prioritize that on the first page, if not the very first result(s).
Try googling for John Carmack, Barack Obama, or (op) Mark Christian. What's the SEO required to get your personal page to be the first result on a search engine?
Is this really an issue?
Someone looking for you personally either for professional or personal reasons already knows who you are so probably already has the relevant URL: from your CV or application form/letter, on a business card, from an email footer, because you've posted links on social media where they are linked to or otherwise follow you, from your profiles on online forums, by deriving it from your email address, ...
Someone looking for the sort of content you are publishing (if it isn't personal journal/diary/blog/etc. style content) will be searching for terms relevant to that and not your name, or those terms plus your name if you are well known in the field. Any SEO should be targetted at that content, not your name.
Before asking "how would someone find me by searching for my name?", first consider "why would anyone feel the need to find me by searching for my name?". It is most likely not a problem you actually need to solve.
> your presence on social media sites, an about page of a project, ... ... will rank first and ahead of any personal website
Because those things are most likely what people are actually looking for. Remember: search engines are focused on giving the searchers what they want, not sending them to where you want them to go.
Where you have control of the content (you might on a project page, you will on your social media accounts), solve that problem by having links to your personal page in a prominent place. If someone doesn't click the extra time then they really weren't wanting to find you hard enough!
Then don't. It's not that difficult to recognize a result from LinkedShit or any other 'social' 'media' site, ignore that result, and move your attention to the next one in the list.
I've adopted the alias "r3bl" to counter that, so that there's something easy to remember and somewhat unique that others could type into a search engine. ".com" was of course squatted, but as far as I could tell, it was pretty unique (with one "e" emitted and one "e" replaced with a 3 like a True Hacker). Now I share that alias with two esports teams and one Silicon Valley company that could afford to buy ".com" from the squatter. I appear anywhere from #1 result to not on the first page at all, depending on your location.
It's not SEO, it's just age. I am an old man with an old school website that's happened to have been up for a long time.
Disagree. My first personal web page from 1996 is still online and I have a very rare (perhaps unique) name. Until a few years ago, all my personal pages (including FB, Twitter) were ranked high by search engines, but since then they've been dethroned by references to former companies, press coverage, websites that list people affiliated with corporations and other such things.
My conclusion from this is that personal pages have somehow been ranked lower recently and news sites and popular websites will be ranked higher if they mention your name (even if the mention is not prominent and years old). This means that nowadays it would probably be useful to put a personal homepage on a popular site like about.me.
These days with "personalised" search results it is harder to tell, but my own searches for my full-name bring me first. Even though I share that name with a few other people.
(I wish I'd bought steve.com, there was a time when I was tempted but after a year or two it was too late. I ended up having https://steve.org.uk, then later https://steve.fi after I moved to Finland.)
As the algorithm is hidden it is hard to say why. But should I guess then I think embedded microdata is an important weight (https://schema.org).
For the record: She has no Wikipedia page (as most notable people would have) which typically rank very high.
I have my site linked on pretty much all those social sites, and it ranks first.
Have a globally unique name, not to mention a first.last domain probably doesn’t hurt either.
And what should the top match for John Carmack be, in your opinion? Where is his homepage?
FWIW on Bing I got his Wikipedia article first and his twitter accoount second, which seems like sensible results in his case.
1. People who know you have your url.
2. People you meet have a business card or SMS from you with the URL
3. People searching for you can find you on social media, but most social media allows you to link to the site.
4. People searching for the keywords you use in your posts will find you if they are unique enough.
John Doe <profession>
John Doe <name of city>
John Doe <name of employer>
I frequently get emails and phone calls from recruiters offering positions with a salary up to 200k more than I'm expecting at my level because they think I teach at Stanford
It's never turned into an awkward situation just yet but its also never gotten further than that.
So what is the definition?
This is certainly legal.
"Well you see uhh thats not me but uhh..."
"I think we are done here."
And you've just burned a massive bridge.
(I don’t except a publisher would let me do that).
Sounds like a well-intentioned eurocratic nightmare.
This was the early 2000s, and I was easily able to knock him from the top spot on the major search engines.
If you want to hire people, look at their CV and talk to them. Don't go behind their back making judgements based on websites, facebook profiles or reddit accoints that are likely to be wrong.
No they shouldn't. What they should do though is geoblock all access coming to their sites and services which they can identify as coming from EU origin, plus add to their site EULA that anyone under EU jurisdiction is not authorized to use their site under any circumstances and such access will be considered unauthorized access, which is a criminal act.
> If you want to hire people, look at their CV and talk to them
That's two of the most likely sources of lies. Neither has much value.
Hosting chronology something like: home Linux box on ADSL, 2 different shared hosters, 1U in a colo facility, back to earlier shared hoster.
For my real-name vanity domain, I went with a `.org`, since I didn't want to be a `.com` in personal life, though today I'd prefer `.net`. (The longer story behind this is that, early in dotcoms, I very quickly got tired of being at social parties of grad students, with MBA students always wanting to talk to me for startup reasons. Also, CS departments and culture were changing due to the gold rush. Going "non-profit" was an idealistic youth reaction.)
The reasons I keep the vanity domain and hosting include:
(1) I'm not signing over rights to some snooping companies to snoop on my email, nor will I implicitly endorse that practice. (IMHO, the current practice of corporate snooping on everyone's private communications is a bad for society. All this time, we techies have been shirking our responsibility to advise people about what they're signing away, and why that's an undesirable direction. I haven't done my part, but I'll try not to make it worse.)
(2) The vanity domain name gives me flexibility for where&how I host, and doesn't lock me into anyone. (Though I'll remain loyal to a hoster who's worked well, even if that means my site is not a showcase for a currently popular service. I've done novel things on AWS professionally, and I shouldn't have to prove anything with my quaint little personal site.)
(3) I've run the canonical Web pages for various niche open source projects, and there's never been an obviously good third-party permanent home for them. (I did almost move those projects to a `git`-centric third-party service, fairly recently, but then my first choice service was acquired by a very different corporate culture, and this also raised the question of how my second choice is going to change (due to competition, or presumably being courted for acquisition). Moving is a lot of trouble to go to, for a situation that might make me want to move again soon after that, so I stick with my ancient site design and hoster.)
I have mixed feelings about the Web site's dated visual design, and I think this is a consideration for anyone who makes a Web presence that will last for years... Mine has looked almost identical for ages, and now feels personally "genuine" to me, compared to better but generic modern looks. While the look stayed the same, the implementation has moved from `table`, to CSS that mimiced the `table` look, to CSS that's responsive while still respecting user's preferred font size. In parallel, there was also a move from HTML4-ish, to XHTML, to HTML5. Along the way, I dropped some unnecessary features that were flashy when I did them, like code syntax coloring (for which I rigged up Emacs into site generation).
I suppose a dated-looking site filters out job opportunities from people who insist that one's personal Web site showcase their best frontend practices. It could stand another look, at tweaks or makeover or complete rethinking, but I'd rather invest unpaid time in contributing to an open source project or techie community, than futzing around with the vanity domain.
You might keep updating your own site, but at some point you might have better things to do, so try to leave it in a style you won't mind being frozen at for years.
Much the same sort-of chronology and hosting story for me…
> For my real-name vanity domain, I went with a `.org`, since I didn't want to be a `.com` in personal life, though today I'd prefer `.net`.
I'm curious to pick your brains on that. I've gone the other way: I ended up standardising on a .net but I kinda wish I had the .org instead, my rationale is, .org is a closer match to what my site is: if I squint I can consider it to be an "organisation" of one, but I can't convince myself that it or I'm a network. I originally picked the .net because I thought it scanned better with my choice of domain.
As an aside, I'm still slightly uncomfortable with the real-name domain name. I did it because I had some idea that this was a facet/presence of my real identity, which already had a name, and there's the idea of standing behind one's name. The discomfort is because my upbringing tried to teach me a flavor of traditional values, like not being boastful, not advertising your deeds, etc., yet the real-name domain name means I'm plastering my name all over, like some politician. Maybe why I went with it despite discomfort is that I'd gotten used to discomfort -- trying to reconcile upbringing (humble is good), with personality (still learning), with conventions in industry&academia (promoting name is accepted/required). I don't worry about it, and I do need some kind of identifier in this space, but I don't know whether I'll ever fully like the domain name.
I went with ".com," not because it was a commercial site (it isn't), but because most people assume that all URLs end in ".com," so ".net" or ".org" would have been confusing. I can tell someone I'm at $DOMAIN and not have to specify the TLD.
I have all three (but my personal domain is not my name). I use them each for different purposes. The .com is my public-facing, general purpose website. The .org is a site I use to provide tools and coordination with my friends (sortof like a private social media thing). The .net I use for servers that are intended just for me (sortof like a gateway to a private cloud).
Why not use .us (if you are in the USA, that is)?
The author's reasons for having an online presence don't appeal to me personally. I can practise skills that I will find useful and I can learn, all without publishing evidence of it online.
I also say nay to having an online presence. I prefer silent, out-of-sight, deep work. On the other hand, I do support having a blog to journal and or log about anything you'd like, public or private. If public, I suggest to not use your real name, etc, but an unusual name like a 8-bit binary number.
Not having an online presence is free-ing. Having an online presence feels like you're a brand and are subjugated to update. Cal Newport might have talked about something along these above things in his latest book, "Digital Minimalism".
I have no doubt a highly motivated and technical individual (or nation state adversary) could find and dox me, but the average curious HR person or run-of-the-mill stalker will likely not have much luck.
Same here. My ultra-common first and last name means I'm also essentially unsearchable. On occasion as an experiment I'll try to find myself using combinations of my name (including an also-super-common middle name) and birth city, cities I'm lived in, jobs I've had, companies I've worked for, hobbies, and other things would normally narrow down a person in a search engine. I've never found myself. I've gone a hundred page deep in google, bing, duckduckgo, and others (both regular and image searches) and I've never once found me. It's like having an invisibility superpower.
It's an interesting consideration in naming a child.
So can and do I. This nickname belongs to a "fake identity" I use online for services where I don't want to be connected with my real name. I got an fitting email address and thought about a first (Martin, obviously) and a family name, too, so I can pass most registrations. Took me about half an hour to set it all up, you should try that too.
Also, have you considered going a "middle path" where you are searchable but no info comes up besides your name and face? With how things seem to be evolving I lean torwards a "grey man" strategy because some day you will be suspicious by not being searchable online. At least that's what I kinda fear.
I've tried to strike a balance between anonymity and retaining 'placeholder' accounts with my name. I can't rule out a change of heart in the future.
I removed all data from facebook manually by using Social Book Posts Manager. Clunky but it works. It took about a week of different sessions to allow it to work through all of my facebook content. My FB account still exists but is effectively private, all the settings are as locked down as I can make them.
I deleted all my tweets manually and set my account to private where possible.
I stripped my LinkedIn profile back to basics manually because I didn't really use it anyway. I don't need it, I have a job I'm happy with that pays the mortgage, I don't feel the need to network myself.
I removed the content from my website (<firstname><lastname>.co.uk). I left it displaying my domain registrar's holding page because I figured Google would down-rate that. It appears to have worked because it never appears in search results for either or both of my names.
My domain is a .co.uk so I've taken advantage of Nominet's anonymity service and no details are visible via public WHOIS.
I haven't asked Archive.org to remove the archived versions of my site, if someone knows about it, they could look there. At present I don't actually have any publicly accessible storage to place the robots.txt so I keep procrastinating about it.
I submitted a removal request to 192.com which is a site that publishes UK telephone directory data. They honour removal requests.
I occasionally google myself (especially from new devices and new locations/IP addresses to see if Google is presenting different results for different searchers) to check.
Streisand effect came to mind, too.
I concede that Google track me everywhere, I can't stop it so I live with it. I aim for a managed level of visibility.
I use uMatrix and uBlock Origin to reduce some of my digital footprint.
Another massive benefit of being a public face is that collaboration is now possible. Two people in the same Uber pool ride in SV could be struggling with the exact same issue and have no idea that the other person exists because the CS field is closed off and proprietary for the sake of shareholder profit. Think of all the investment and engineering by a half a dozen companies towards the same exact goal of a self driving car. Imagine if all those NDAs were ripped up, and every engineer met up at a conference, gave talks, held poster sessions, troubleshooted common problems, set up meetings, emails, collaborations, joint efforts, shared resources and data, etc.
But then, of course, no company will be able to 'win' and dominate market share and print money for the shareholders.
The thing that makes a personal webpage now different from a personal webpage in 1997 is this: Back then you could expect to immediately rank #1 on your own name, and you would even have a decent chance of ranking for some keywords related to content that you put up. Nowadays, if you're unlucky and you have a name that's somewhat common, or even just a single other person exists with a strong online footprint that has the same name as you, then you won't even rank for your own name any more. If you want any of your actual content to rank, then the chances of making that happen are even slimmer.
More eyeballs on the internet means greater incentives to put content online that will get noticed, which means that commercial interests will throw money and resources at making that happen which a personal side project can't compete with. More content online means search engines get to be pickier about what they show to users. The cost/benefit calculation has changed dramatically, especially around how much content you have to put up and how frequently you have to put up content, because search engines heavily penalize content for being old or stale even when content ages well when it's good and even when you actually write on stuff that you are a real authority on and even when the web is desperately in need of less of the "sponsored" kind of content and more of the "independent & authoritative" kind of content.
So in order to truly solve the problem of making it worthwhile again for people to have personal websites, one first needs to solve the discovery problem.
I think somebody should invent a search engine to do that.
I think that when people put up personal webpages now, they should adopt a "fediverse" technology stack to turn their personal webpages into a social-media-like experience that allows for an alternative vector of discovery next to keyword search.
I think that policymakers should reverse the current trend wherein they put liabilities on website owners & operators that a private person doing a personal webpage can't possibly shoulder.
So, in conclusion: Bring back some of the goodness of the WWW of 1997 again. I'm all for it. But the technology community has a loooong way to go, before that can become a reality.
I think that was the core of the "old" 97 websites - I mean Google didn't exist back then, so finding a page when you search for a name was neither here nor there. Instead you found a webpage through word of mouth, and unlike today, you'd sit down and spend the time to have a good browse through the site.
On that last note, personal websites are often still manageable - that is, if you sit down for a couple hours, you can consume a lot of the content that one person created in the span of an X amount of years. Not so much with a lot of the bigger websites nowadays; Medium.com is a rabbithole and you'll quickly end up going to another author's posts. News and moreso social media sites are an infinite torrent of rapid fire blurbs, all tugging you one way then the other in terms of subjects, political sides, and in ways to try and sell something to you.
What it was like before then I can't say as I'm not that old, but I imagine that URLs would have been made known through the usenet, irc and so on, which were also more multicast/broadcast in nature than word-of-mouth in the sense of people who actually personally know each other in meatspace communicating point-to-point.
It depends on what your expectations/goals are. I don't have any expectations to find regular readers or to have XXX monthly users. However, I have the expectation that people will find my blog post if they're looking for a problem which I have solved. I also have the expectation that I can link to my blog post in discussions, so I don't need to repeat myself.
Besides that, making your own website is rewarding in many other ways - Being creative, getting thoughts out of your head, pinning down certain arguments you tend to repeat, etc.
…does not always work. When I give people a link they can't click on, they type it in the search bar. And not even in full, they tend to strip the http://www and .com ends. And you can't click on a piece of paper, which is where my CV typically ends up on.
Last week, I interviewed with someone who said he googled me. All he found was a "little GitHub page". My full name ranks my personal web site first or second on every search engine I've tried, yet he couldn't find it. Is the Google bubble that strong?
Try giving them a QR code instead.
But otherwise: If you apply for an job, say in finance, you'll be asked for a resume, because people can't be bothered dealing with information that's extraneous to what goes into a resume.
If you apply for a job as a coder, you'll be asked for a link to a github repo, because people can't be bothered with looking at anything other than your code.
If you apply for a research role, you'll be asked for a link to where your publications can be found, maybe on researchgate, because people can't be bothered with looking at anything other than your peer-reviewed publications.
Do you see the pattern here? It's another example of the balance between information and attention shifting towards too-much-information/too-little-attention. -- And personal webpages aren't good at dealing with the too-little-attention part of the equation, so there is rarely a demand for giving people information about yourself in the "free form" style.
The second aspect you mention: If you produce some webpage content, you can always decide whether you want to see it as a diary and not put it up online, or whether you want to see it as something that should be out in the public, and do put it up online. It seems to me like a contradiction to prefer putting it online, but then not to care about whether it actually gets seen or not. (Especially considering that one gets into a lot of liability everytime one puts something up online).
In my experience, this is not true. I setup a website to describe software projects, and my role in them. It was, per my current boss, a key factor in getting an interview. Browsing github repo's, imo, is much more bothersome than reading a well crafted project page.
That said, it also wouldn't be perfect, since quite a few small and personal sites do have ads for whatever reason. Usually because the author thinks hey, even a 0.5% chance someone clicks on an ad will pay better than no ads/a donation link.
A place on the internet that you own and can write your thoughts down is very valuable. Yes, there are other services that you can leverage (medium, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, stack overflow, to name a few, depending on your content and desired reach) but your content there will alwybe subject to the whims of others. Big companies aren't always going to have your best interest at heart.
It's a bit of a pain to set up, but as the article states, you get your own space. Writing is one of the ways I learn best, and any writing I do is highly leveragable and can be used by folks far into the future. With your own site, you also have, again as the article states, a place to do low risk but still meaningful technical exploration.
I have had my own site for almost 20 years and look forward to having it for 20 more.
Also, see this post from Dion Almaer about bringing content back to his site vs a third party service:
My website is my username DOT org, for anyone who is curious.
I've been told several times that I was Googled prior to interviews/meetings and have heard great things about my website, my online presence, my books (I have an "author" card when people Google me), etc. Whatever you do to make you stand out is a boon.
A logical consequence is that you compete with other vain people online who might choose to stretch the truth a bit more than you do. At which point does telling convincing lies about yourself become a useful skill to have?