The Story of My Domain

Alan Levine recently put out a request for stories about domains as a part of the Ontario Extend project. While I have traditionally identified more with the IndieWeb movement, a lot of how I use my website dovetails with the Domain of One’s Own philosophy.

Here are my answers to Alan’s list of questions about my domain:

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

I use the domain name BoffoSocko as my online identity.

I’ve spent 20+ years working in the entertainment industry in one way or another and was enamored of it long before that. Boffo and socko are slanguage from the trade magazine Variety essentially meaning “fantastically, stupendously outstanding; beyond awesome”, and used together are redundant. I was shocked that the domain name was available so I bought it on a whim expecting I’d do something useful with it in the future. Ultimately who wouldn’t want to be Boffo, Socko, or even both?

In my youth I think I watched Muppets Take Manhattan about 1,000 times and apparently always thought Kermit was cool when he said “Boffo Lenny! Socko Lenny!”

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

Over the ages I’d had several websites of one stripe or another going back to the early/mid-90’s when I was in college and everyone was learning about and using the web together. Many of my domains had  a ~ in them which was common at the time. I primarily used them to promote work I was doing in school or with various groups. Later I remember spending a lot of time setting up WordPress and Drupal sites, often for friends, but didn’t actually do much with my own. For me it was an entry point into working with coding and simply playing with new technology.

I didn’t actually begin putting a lot of material online until the social media revolution began in 2006/2007. In 2008, I purchased a handful of domain names, many of which I’m still maintaining now. Ultimately I began posting more of my own material, photos, and observations online in a now defunct Posterous account in early 2010. Before it got shut down I had moved back to WordPress which gave me a lot more freedom and flexibility.

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?

When I bought my first handful of domains, it was primarily to begin to own and brand my own identity online. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was going to do with them, but I was posting so much content to Facebook and Twitter I thought I ought to be posting it all (especially the longer form, and in my mind, more valuable content) to a site I owned and controlled and then syndicating the content to those other sites instead. Initially microblogging, bookmarking, posting checkins, and sharing photos made it easier to being writing and producing other things.

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

Most of my domains are personal and personal education related, though I do have a few for separate business/work purposes.

https://www.boffosocko.com is my primary, personal, catch-all domain run with WordPress. I can do almost anything and everything I want with it at this point.

I use it to (privately or publicly):

  • collect bookmarks of interesting things I see online or want to read in the future;
  • post about what I’m reading, watching, or listening to;
  • post what I’m eating, drinking, or places I’ve checked into, photos of things around me;
  • post podcasts and microcasts from time to time;
  • draft and synthesize big pieces of the above to write reviews or longer pieces (from articles to books) and publish them for others to read.

Generally I do everything others would do on any one of hundreds of other social media websites (and I’ve got all those too, though I use them far less), but I’m doing it in a centralized place that I own and control and don’t have to worry about it or certain pieces of functionality disappearing in the future.

In large part, I use my website like a modern day commonplace book. It’s where I post most of what I’m thinking and writing on a regular basis and it’s easily searchable as an off-board memory. I’m thrilled to have been able to inspire others to do much the same, often to the extent that many have copied my Brief Philosophy word-for-word to their “About” pages.

Almost everything I do online starts on my own domain now, and, when appropriate, I syndicate content to other places to make it easier for friends, family, colleagues, and others to read that content in other channels and communicate with me.

https://chrisaldrich.withknown.com — This is a WithKnown-based website that I used when I initially got started in the IndieWeb movement. It was built with IndieWeb and POSSE functionality in mind and was dead simple to use with a nice interface.

http://stream.boffosocko.com — Eventually I realized it wasn’t difficult to set up and maintain my own WithKnown site, and it gave me additional control. I made it a subdomain of my primary website. I’ve slowly been using it less and less as I’ve been able to do more and more with my WordPress website. Now I primarily use it for experiments as well as for quick mobile replies to sites like Twitter.

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

Having more examples of things that are possible with a domain and having potential mentors to support me in what I was attempting to do. I wish I had come across the IndieWeb movement and their supportive community far earlier. I wish some of the functionality and web standards that exist now had been around earlier.

I still struggle with writing the code I’d like to have to create particular pieces of functionality. I wish I was a better UX/UI/design person to create some of the look and feel pieces I wish I had. Since I don’t (yet), I’m trying to help others maintain and promote pieces of their projects, which I use regularly.

I still wish I had a better/more robust feed reader more tightly integrated into my website. I wish there was better/easier micropub support for various applications so that I could more easily capture and publish content on my website.

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

I’d like to continue evolving the ability to manage and triage my reading workflows on my own site.

I’d like to be able to use it to more easily and prettily collect things I’m highlighting and annotating on the web in a way that allows me to unconditionally own all the relevant data without relying on third parties.

Eventually I’d like to be able to use it to publish books or produce and distribute video directly.

I’m also continuing to document my experiments with my domain so that others can see what I’ve done, borrow it, modify it, or more easily change it to suit their needs. I also do this so that my future (forgetful) self will be able to remember what I did and why and either add to or change it more easily.

Tomorrow I’m positive I’ll see someone using their own website to do something cool or awesome that I wish I had thought to do. Then I hope I won’t have to work too hard to make it happen for myself. These itches never seem to stop because, on your own domain, nearly anything is possible.

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?

Collecting, learning, analyzing, and creating have been central to academic purposes since the beginning of time. Every day I’m able to do these things more quickly and easily in conjunction with using my own domain. With new tools and standards I’m also able to much more easily carry on two-way dialogues with a broader community on the internet.

I hope that one day we’re able to all self-publish and improve our own content to the point that we won’t need to rely on others as much for many of the moving parts. Until then things continue to gradually improve, so why not join in so that the improvement accelerates? Who knows? Perhaps that thing you would do with your domain becomes the tipping point for millions of others to do so as well?

To get going it only takes some desire. There are hundreds of free or nearly free services you can utilize to get things rolling. If you need help or a mentor, I’m happy to serve as that to get you going. If you’d like a community and even more help, come join the IndieWeb chat room. You can also look for a local (or virtual) Homebrew Website Club; a WordPress Meetup or Camp, or Drupal Meetup or Camp; or any one of dozens of other groups or communities that can help you get moving.

Welcome to the revolution!

The Story of My Domain was originally published on Chris Aldrich

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