Thursday, April 3, 2014

Building An (online) Room of One's Own

What are the basic ingredients in creating an online space of one's own? In the past, when a room required materials -- wood, plaster, nails, roofing, and so forth -- the question was one of cost, of economy; Thoreau kept track of every nail used to build his cabin on Walden Pond. Now, one can built a fairly spacious dwelling for no cost whatsoever -- aside from one's time! -- but as the choices grow wider the process gets murkier. Do you want, or need, to "blog"? Do you want or need to "share"? What streets of information or social activity do you want your online doors to open into, or out from? Who would you like your neighbors to be? And do you feel comfortable handing advertising signage on your online dwelling-place, or would you pay a certain premium not to have ads? And, once your home exists, what do you want to do with it? Who do you want to "stop by"? How often do you yourself want to "be" there?

And maybe you don't need to start from scratch -- don't you already have some places online where you tend to go, or have made some sort of nook or cranny for yourself? Most online services offer some kind of "hub" where you can pull "yourself" together; Google has your Google+ profile page; Yahoo! offers MyYahoo!; and of course Facebook offers the ever-changing format of one's Facebook Profile page. Beyond these major players, dozens of services will enable you to cobble together a personal web page (no coding required! they say), or you can get a slightly higher level of service with a paid home, which can come with domain and/or hosting services, using one of the big providers such as GoDaddy. At the top of the cost list, you could register a custom domain name, using some version of your own name or a phrase you've chosen, and hire a web designer to put together something more singular for a few hundred dollars.

But a true online home is more than that, I'm willing to bet.  Home is a place where no-one but you re-arranges the furniture. A place where friends, but not trolls, come to visit. A place where services and media you really enjoy and have chosen -- your books, your films, your e-mail -- are near at hand, and free of advertising. And a place "near" to other places, other friends' home, where you like to go. And, in the cacophonous world of the Internet today, it's getting a bit harder to find.