Interviewing My Domain

Interviewing My Domain

July 26, 2018 0 By JR

Alan Levine issued this call a while back, but I thought “better late than never” after reading Colin Madland’s reply today.

What is your domain name and what is the story, meaning behind your choice of that as a name?

I have a few domain names at this moment. For me, I bought my first domain – module13.ca – in 2015. I only purchased my name domain – jrdingwall.ca – a few months ago. The latter is as simple as advice my graduate supervisor gave us during one of our many kitchen conversation sessions years ago. So I’m a bit late to the game, but it is really nice now having my own name as the domain as it’s a bit easier to direct colleagues and acquaintances to.

My first domain started as a bit of an instructional design joke. I was chatting one night on my way out of the office with one of my dear friends and colleagues from my early career in ID. We were talking about a few courses, which had any number of modules, and we started joking about including illusive 13th modules. Something about the name just stuck with me, and when I finally decided to purchase my own domain it was the only thing I could come up with. The sub-domains then became a part of the identify. I started a pressbooks install and called it 13books, “books beyond the dozen”. Or a courses hub called 13 courses. So now I seem to be stuck with a baker’s dozen worth of ideas.

What was your understanding, experience with domains before you got one? Where were you publishing online before having one of your own?

Before buying my own domain I had made like 2 geocities sites when I was a kid. Followed by a very long gap in making anything on the web I eventually had a few blogs. The blogs were set up for classes I took during my undergraduate degree. Then there were a couple that were more for fun. There was one I set up using Blogger as an official blogger for Helsinki Summer School 2012. Another, also Blogger, was called 21 days of ice cream. I used that one to post videos of me eating all varieties of ice cream I could get my hands on while in Finland in 2012.

I didn’t really think about domains at the time aside from what to call the site. So the summer school one was something like hss2012detef.blogspot (detef = designing teach education for the future). I also had to create some websites using dreamweaver, or Google sites while in school, and trust me, these site domains were as confusing and unintuitive/boring as the detef one. I recently imported all of the content from other blogs into this blog, you’ll see “reclaimed” in the titles of these posts. In general I’ve been trying to close accounts that I don’t use anymore, and for the blogs I find a great deal of pride in bringing this content ‘home’.

What was a compelling feature, reason, motivation for you to get and use a domain? When you started what did you think you would put there?

Mid 2015 I was a new solo instructional designer, and while I had a lot to learn about classical ID (cough LMS work) in higher ed, I had been introduced to the work of Alan Levine, Jim Groom, George Siemens and Stephen Downes, and many more while I was in grad school years earlier. Something about a lot of their work stuck with me, and I started to see some of the work my colleagues at the UofS DEU were working on and thought to myself “this is important work, and I’m not going to get institutional support to pursue it, so I have to do it myself”. It didn’t hurt that Reclaim Hosting had recently started up, and that even though I had few interactions with Jim and his team, I trusted that they would be at the centre of the right community for me. I think I had recently been to a conference session by Adam Croom, and he demonstrated Reclaim’s installitron which made it look approachable to get started. So I was off, I purchased a domain, installed my very first instance of WP got to work.

The first thing I wanted to create was a portfolio. I was transitioning from one ID position to another project and it seemed really relevant for me at the time to have a collection of work I could show. Looking down the line I thought I might also pursue freelance ID, so a company name and portfolio could be built around the domain. That eventually shifted, and most of the portfolio work is now on my name domain.

What kinds of sites have you set up one your domain since then? How are you using them? Please share URLs!

Module13 is now a sort of random collection of sites and work, as well as a testing ground for me to try things out:

  • module13.ca is the home domain, and will act as a hub to my work as it expands
    • Skitsi is a portfolio of pens and pencils I make. I sold these at craft fairs for a couple of years
    • SPLOT the OER Tools is a site created from Alan Levine’s SPLOTpoint theme, for an OER presentation I created
    • Another use of the SPLOTpoint theme is a site I created to study for my ikkyu exam for Judo. I needed to study translations and categories of techniques etc, and needed to reserve time in the dojo to actually practice the techniques. So for the cognitive part of studying I created a site that I could use on my phone while commuting or having a coffee. Something quick and easy. It worked pretty well and a couple of my classmates ended up using it too.
    • Most other sites on module13 are just test areas so I won’t write about them in detail.
  • jrdingwall.ca is now a go to domain for me. I use the main domain as a calling card, again h/t to Alan Levine as I’m using a theme (dimension) he created as my digital calling card.
    • JR Blogwall is where you’re reading this post! I gathered as many relevant blog posts I had created in all different places over the years to this one spot.
    • JR Dingwall Portfolio is the most recent version of my portfolio (still working on bringing things in from previous portfolios). I have to say this is the one I’ve been happiest with so far.
    • I’m also playing with PIWIGO since the announcement that smugmug purchased Flickr. Nothing special to report there, yet…

As a side note: I also create a number of sites for courses over at the UofS DEU. View some of our courses in the directory.

What helped you or would have helped you more when you started using your domain? What do you still struggle with?

The domain itself was pretty straight forward, but taking on a role of seeing what the installitron had to offer opened my eyes a bit. What started out as just wanting to get my own install of WP going has opened up to using different platforms and wondering whether I’ll be satisfied with the tools I’m using or always trying to optimize and blowing out old installs. The Pressbooks install was something that took me out of my comfort zone right away, and I’m glad that the Reclaim team helped me get started with it. I’ve since backed off and I’m using the hosted version as the number of headaches I got just wasn’t quite worth it. For my personal use, WP alone was easier. I don’t get into file management very often and that sometimes restricts me from making specific tweaks that I might like to do, but I’m sure that will come with time. There is a great community of support once you just dip your toe in. Having to manage your own domain and content also makes you think twice about going for complicated ideas/solutions when something much simpler will do, which in ed tech is a good second thought to have.

What kind of future plans to you have for your domain?

My personal domains will continue to be a playground and showcase of my work. Where that leads all depends on what forks in the road I find along the way. SPLOTs are a concept that really interested me once I saw them at a conference presentation by Brian Lamb and Alan Levine, but also the way Keegan Long-Wheeler used it when presenting his faculty development game, GOBLIN. Currently just a couple of instructors I work with have taken up the idea, but impressive sites have already been made (like this geology video curation project).

What would you say to other educators about the value, reason why to have a domain of your own? What will it take them to get going with their own domain?

I think at the end of the day it’s your own choice. I have found that for me, having my own domain has made me more invested in how I interact online and given me more agency in what I do online. If you want more control, that comes with more responsibility, and if you are okay with that then dive right in. You don’t have to make everything about your domain and abandon all other platforms – your digital life can be a quilt and your domain just one patch. It’s really about what you want to get out of it.

If you want your own domain all you need is a name, and an idea of something you want to make. And that thing can be REALLY small. That’s ok! Start with a calling card. I used to have an about.me page and as soon as I got my own name domain it seemed ridiculous to me to have that other calling card (not to mention I didn’t have much control over what was there and you get SO MANY EMAILS). If you’re in education, I can’t help but say how much Reclaim Hosting has helped me and would point you in their direction. They just get it.