Back in the late 1990's I read an article in FAST COMPANY magazine
entitled, "YOU ARE YOUR URL".
So in 1999 while teaching at Tarleton State University, I began my
I was teaching a couple of INTRO to COMPUTER classes. I made an
assignment which I thought was quite reasonable.
I asked the students to pick any topic dealing with computers; find
three articles and write a two page summary. I did want the summary and
a copy of the three articles. (some growns in the back)
Next morning at class, several students said that they searched every
where in Stephenville and could NOT find a computer magazine.
So, we could not do the project. I said, "let me think about that".
That night I started me web site with a COMPUTER link. It had the major
Next morning I explained to the class how to get to my web site and
click on the COMPUTER link. Then select any computer magazine, put in a
topic and get the last 100 articles they published on the topic.
No more excuses. (Of course, the students had not found the library.
What freshman knows where the library is...)
You Are Your URL
Personal Web pages don't just communicate what you know.
They say a lot about who you are and where you're going.
Issue 04 |
August 1996 |
A year ago, just having a personal Web page was enough -- something
that set you apart from the rest. After all, you could code in HTML. So
you put up a resume, scanned in some cheesy photos, and patted yourself
on the back.
Times have changed.
These days, having your own URL is more than something to do that's
cool. In your private life, it's a way to express your interests and
hobbies. Get into the conversation. Gather knowledge and spread it. In
the workplace, it's a way to make sure that you have work. That you're
visible. And valuable. A way to further your career and access company
Your personal Web page is each of these alone and all of them
together. You are your URL.
Personal Web pages are reportedly the fastest growing phenomenon on
the Internet: AOL counts 300,000
personal pages on its server,
CompuServe reports 80,000. More importantly, they are gaining in
sophistication, depth, texture, personality, and purpose. Unlike
commercial Web sites, personal Web pages serve individualized aims,
ranging from expressing personal values and political views to creating
community and establishing links with like-minded individuals. As a
consequence, the ubiquitous measure of Web site success -- number of
hits -- misses the point. "Success is measured by the number of people
who consider your page valuable enough to link to it," says Howard
Rheingold, author of The Virtual Community. "It's more important to me
to get an e-mail that says, 'I saw your page and it changed my life,'
than how many hits the page got."
In a Web world where you are your URL, three distinct varieties are
beginning to emerge: the personal, the hybrid, and the corporate
Meet Sandra Hall. Her job is all about building Web pages -- for
Orincon Corp., a research and development firm in San Diego. Recently
back from a month-long journey to the Arctic, she's busy documenting the
activities of a research team sent there to study the oceans.
But the Web page she's devoted to is her own -- WebDiva , which has
attracted more than 18,000 visitors since October 1995. WebDiva is a
collection of links to resources that illustrate Hall's intense interest
in African-American heritage -- everything from black literature to
black-owned businesses, from African newspapers to historical archives.
"My Web page allows me to express my political position and my view of
life in ways that I would never be able to in my work as a support
person for a project," Hall says.
More than just a site where she can post her hobbies and interests,
Hall's Web page is a launchpad from which she catapults into life. She
used it to organize an investment club where 22 members have pooled
their money to invest in stock. Her Web page attracted the attention of
an African-American Internet service provider, which offered her the
opportunity to host a chat room featuring technology tricks and tips.
And she's built a network of cyberfriends she can contact for advice or
information through her site. A self-described "information-intensive
Internet junkie," Hall is on a mission to empower herself -- and others
-- by using her Web page to publicize her interests, values, and
Work Meets Life
In contrast, Richard Seltzer's home page (http://www.samizdat.com)
intentionally blends his personal and professional interests. "People
tend to separate their work and personal identities," says the
50-year-old Digital Equipment Corporation employee. "My Web page is a
place where I can put both."
For instance, Seltzer's Web site, which has recorded more than 17,000
visits since December 1995, offers an archive of every book he's read in
the last 38 years -- as well as some of the fiction he's written. You
can find the text of his children's book, The Lizard of Oz, which will
appear at Christmas as an interactive CD-ROM. Seltzer also posted an
original film script about a group of young Vietnam draft dodgers -- and
heard from a movie producer in Iceland. "Nothing will probably come of
that," Seltzer says, " but who ever heard of movie producers in Iceland,
and even if you did, how would you ever get in touch with them?"
But Seltzer's home page also integrates his work for Digital. As a
marketing consultant in the Internet Business Group, his job is to
spread the word about the Net. He uses the contacts he's made on his own
home page to stay in touch with what's happening on the Net. His Web
site also provides a forum where he can test out new ideas that he may
later incorporate into customer presentations.
US West Communications has embraced the idea of personal home pages
within its bustling intranet, called the Global Village. The company has
just launched an effort to create personal home pages for all of its
50,000 employees. According to Sherman Woo, director of information
tools and technologies, the notion that "you are your URL" has both
corporate and personal benefits.
For the company, personal home pages are a convenient, cost-effective
way to manage vast amounts of information about its employees; for the
employee, they are an opportunity to become more visible -- and thus
more valuable. Several thousand pages are already in place, Woo says,
and the benefits are evident. "It's made work more visible, so there's
more collaboration. It's helped members of a very lkarge organization
make themselves known to one another."
Once US West creates the Web pages, each employee claims his or her
own and takes responsibility for updating it. What they post may
determine their career path. "People's skills, the fact that they're
pursuing a degree on the side in computer auditing, or have a particular
interest - that kind of information is useful when managers are looking
for someone with the background to solve a problem or participate in a
project," says Woo. Eventually, the pages will act as a directory of
expertise or "yellow pages," opening up new channels for people to find
each other and undermining the strict hierarchy that persists at many
companies. "People who have home pages have work," Woo says. "and people
who don't, don't have to work."
Sidebar: RULS for URLS
What does it take to make your URL a destination and not a detour?
Web guru Howard Rheingold, whose own home page, Brainstorms
(http://www.well.com/user/hlr), has received more than 70,000 visitors
since December 1995, knows. Staged as a virtual jam session for scoping
out the future, the site pops with fresh content, including the latest
on all things "rheingoldian," reports on the digital zeitgeist, and
discussions among the community of "humanist futurists." "It's swallowed
my life," says Rheingold happily. Here are his dos and don'ts for
keeping house on the Web:
1. Put up pictures of your family and pets. It's the ultimate cliché
of the boring Web page.
2. Assume that users know as much about your site as you do. Be sure
to provide navigational cues -- a table of contents, a site map, or a
3. Overload your home page with too much information. No more than
40K on the top page. You don't want people downloading all that
extraneous stuff to find out what you're all about.
4. Use blink. Blink says, "This is an amateur!" Animated gifs are the
new blink. They're flashy and cool -- the first time -- but they're a
5. Leave your page untouched for months on end. Stale material labels
your site a Ghost Town. Update frequently -- at least once a month.
1. Have interesting content. Of course, what's interesting depends on
what you're interested in. Whether it's sheepdogs or parallel processing
or technology IPOs, there's an opportunity for you to narrowcast your
interests and get in touch with people who share them.
2. Remember that usability is more important than visual impact --
people have limited bandwidth and limited time. Stay away from those
huge online graphics.
3. Include a "mail to." People want to know not just who you are, but
how to get in touch. Feedback is everything.
4. Provide fresh links. If you make the effort, the regulars will
come back -- and they'll bring friends.
5. Try this at home.
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