Interviewing My Domain

I am late in responding to this prompt from Alan but given all Alan does I figured I should give this a shot.

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

I started this many moons ago when I was teaching k12. It was a time of hope around edtech and the edu-blog-o-sphere was young. Many people even referred to it as the edu-blog-o-sphere1 and the first edubloggercon had yet to happen. Most of the fully-branded tech teachers you know today were working in actual schools rather than for companies. It was a strange time, like the 1960s maybe, so I blame the domain name on that. I was working with Jim Coe and we had plans become some sort of edtech consultant group. That whole branding thing didn’t seem quite as repulsive to me then as it does now.2

In any case, I had previously had a free blog on a site run by James Farmer (incsub.org/wpmu) which was entitled Bionic Teacher. My concept at that time was that fusing the best of technology with the best of human options resulted in the title. Since we were now two people and a long-term goal of influencing more people bionic teacher became bionic teaching. We then immediately got that user name on such amazing sites as teachertube, quia, delicious, elgg etc.3

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

Previously, my limited interactions with servers had been via Dreamweaver or FTP with already established sites. I promise they were primitive and fraught with terror that I’d destroy something. I’d also used WordPress in the WPMU install but that was about it.

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?

I knew I wanted someplace where I was making the choices rather than other people. I planned to install WordPress at a minimum but had grander, if unspecified, ambitions for more. I wanted a place to try things out. I knew I had things I wanted to do that went beyond what I could do in a post in WordPress. Even within WordPress I wanted the ability to install my own plugins and themes rather than just take what was provided.

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

I’ve run lots of WordPress sites on the domain. Some have aged out and been killed off. While I was teaching edtech at UR, I ran a WordPress multisite for the students taking my course. However, many of the things on that domain aren’t so much sites as little experiments or tools that amused me at the time. Things like TrumpDump, some timeline js stuff, just lots of things I wanted to try but didn’t seem worthy of a subdomain or the purchase of a new domain. Some I kept, some have broken, some have been deleted because I need the space or was pretending I’d get things in good order.

I have maintained a personal portfolio at tomwoodward.us for a number of years. It started off in WordPress but now runs in HTML/JS and uses JSON from my blog’s API and some other sources. I made it when I was really early in learning how this all worked and it needs a remake in the near future. When I finish a portfolio site, I almost immediately start the guilt-process about needing to remake it.

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

I learned fairly quickly that BlueHost and I had very different ideas about the definition of “unlimited.” That was a hassle and I wish I’d have understood that better from the start.

People have been very kind to me throughout this process. That’s technical help for sure but also the other stuff. Comments count for a lot- both giving and getting.

I wish I’d have put more of my original media on the server rather than linking to it in other places. It would have made space more of an issue but I’d have some things that are now lost.

A bit of primitive folder structure would have made sense too . . . assuming I’d have stuck with it. The root of the domain is a bit of a mess now but some of that was driven by a lack of understanding about how all the pieces interrelated so I’m not sure I could have organized it properly from the start.

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

I expect to keep running it. I may or may not make the tomwoodward.us domain more prominent. I’ve been debating incorporating different subject matter and if I do that with any consistency the name doesn’t make as much sense4 . . . or maybe it’s fine. Since I’m no longer in branding mode, audience doesn’t matter much.

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?

This has been invaluable to me. Absolutely invaluable. All kinds of good things have happened because I could put both my thinking and my work in a place that I control where others can see it. I’ve made friends. I’ve gotten jobs (full time and consulting). I’ve created documentation to help me out so many, many times. I’ve helped other people solve problems. I’ve had fun and it keeps me thinking.

Getting started is pretty easy. It’s like joining a gym. Easy to start, easy to go a time or two. It’s the long run that interests me. I think that’s driven by the desire to do something more than you can in other places. I’d spend some time thinking about what it is you want. Do you care about owning your data in a particular way? Do you want more than a paid wordpress.com account can offer?

You might start in those more restrictive environments (assuming you can migrate out with safety and ease) and then move up when you feel the box is too cramped. Making your moves after hitting the limits makes sense to me. If you’re very happy with a particular box then taking on the extra work, however minimal, when you don’t want the reward doesn’t make sense. Maybe that’s the deal. Take advantage of your freedom. Try many things. Make and destroy. Make again. Have fun with your freedom.


1 I can’t recall if they used hyphens though.

2 It was that repulsive even then, I just didn’t realize it. Once I started trying to do it, I realized it just wasn’t for me.

3 That’s close to true but this is more of a memoir than a factual recounting.

4 Plus, I think it sounds a bit egotistical. I don’t pretend to have found this balance of human and tech and I worry that assumption might be there. If anything I feel farther from figuring this stuff out every day.