My students get extra credit if they can show they've registered an internet domain name for themselves. In any future course I teach, this will no longer be ...
My students get extra credit if they can show they've registered an internet domain name for themselves. In any future course I teach, this will no longer be optional; it will be a requirement.
My students – and the rest of us – are partly who others say we are. That's a key reason why each of us needs to be one of the voices (preferably the most prominent) defining us. To the extent that they live public lives in any way – and like it or not, it's getting harder not to be public in some way – tomorrow's adults will need an online home that they control. They need an online home, a place where they tell the world who they are and what they've done, where they post their own work, or at least some of it.
Of course, the students and most of their parents have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Flickr and all sorts of other places. The value of conversation and sharing in general is enormous, and these services offer great convenience. But to cede our online presences – in a way, our very identities – to these entities strikes me as a mistake.
Now, LinkedIn and the other services aren't likely to alter what we say about ourselves in our profiles and other postings, and they offer convenience plus teams of people who handle issues like security, not to mention visibility for users. Yet, we all need to remember who's in charge at those social media sites. You and I are just visitors, suppliers of content they hope to use to make money.
Again and again, we've all seen the risks of putting our proverbial eggs in these corporate baskets. Again and again, we've seen that "free" always comes at a price, whether it's using the data we generate to make money, outright invasions of privacy, or the real possibility that the service might (and sometimes does) disappear at the whim of the owner. Google's decision this month to shutter its Reader product, which helped countless people (including me) organize our information intake, is only one recent example of such a corporate move.
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Getting a domain is easy, and cheap. For the price of a few cups of coffee, you can register a domain.
I recognize the trade-offs. Those services' huge size means I can get my ideas and information in front of thousands of people easily without having to lure them to my own blogs. Then there's convenience: I have to update my personal blog software (it's easy), while the online giants do it for us.
These trade-offs will only grow more difficult, I suspect. But there's at least one I won't make: giving up control of who I am and what I believe to people who may or may not be my friends in years to come. To the extent that I possibly can, I will control at least this much of my own destiny. You should, too.