5.8.5: Establishing Connections
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All good public web documents should be well connected and accessible to readers. All good private web documents should be safely and securely delivered (and probably encrypted). However, regardless of what type of document you might be working on, it has the ability to go a great many places, and be read by an even greater number of people. And so, regardless if you want your document to be public or not, you should consider who it is you will be writing for and also who might conceivably find or stumble across your work.
You should also realize that in the act of writing on the Web that you are, in a sense, creating a virtual representation of yourself as a writer. Your readers may not know you in person, but they will begin to know what you feel, how you think. They will form an opinion of you and your writing over time... and that can either be a positive or a negative one. You are building a reputation of your own design and need to establish the sorts of reputations and connections that are both interesting and useful for you.
Maintaining a Website
Creating a website is only half the battle, you also have to maintain and update it regularly if you want to keep your visitors. If your site is current and has new information, people are more likely to visit it. Not updating your site is a good way to lose them.
Maintaining your site means that, among other things specific to your site, all your features work, all your images load, and all your links connect users to the proper place. Any changes you make could affect your site in different places, so if you do make a change, double check that everything else is still functional.
Another very important aspect of maintaining you site is updating your content. This may be as simple as changing or adding links. You could also add new information or features. But, this doesn't always mean getting rid of the old.
Remember, the simpler you keep your site, the easier it will be to maintain. Creating complicated gimmicks will only mean more maintenance and more work for you.
An easy and user-friendly way to maintain your site is to allow user feedback. If something is not working, they will be the first to let you know. Take this feedback seriously, and, if possible, try to respond and thank the user. Evaluate the suggestion and, if you decide to implement it, contact the person who suggested it and recommend they return to see the change. A “What's New” section may be helpful to let other users know what has been updated.
Put in a plan of action for updating and maintaining your site. For example:
- First, decide how much time you want to spend on maintenance per month and schedule a routine time to do it so that you won't forget. For a small site, you should dedicate at least two to five hours a month on maintenance.
- Next, discover what your users are doing and saying. What kind of feedback are they leaving? What areas of your site are they most visiting? Do certain parts of your site that used to have a lot of activity seeing less activity? If your site is hosted by a web hosting site, it should provide this information for you.
- Make the changes.
- As with everything, proofread and spell-check before you upload your changes.
- Think about future enhancements like guest-books, graphics, a search engine, etc. Maybe set up a poll to see what your visitors would like added and then make sure to consider their feedback.
Writing to be Found and Linked
Establishing a Virtual Reputation or Persona
Establishing a web persona or virtual reputation can be beneficial to both your professional and social life. It allows old friends and colleagues to contact you and see what you have been up to throughout the years. It also allows potential employers and/or clients to get a sense of your personality, accomplishments, etc. before deciding to work with you. It is probably not a good thing, career-wise, if you are not on the web; however, the same may be true if your name gets too many hits. Although you want to have a web identity, you do not want to have a mistaken one.
It is fairly simple to establish a web identity. First, you need to have an email account. Make sure that this account is separate from either your work or school address. This is in case you graduate, leave your job or other unforeseen circumstances (such as technological problems) arise.
There are several different email archives to choose from. Some of the best known and popular archives are Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail. When you sign up for any of these archives, remember to choose a name for your account that is appropriate. Although your friends may find a name like ‘Big_Daddy’ or ‘Foxy_Lady’ humorous and/or suitable for you, potential employers and clients will not. If you are having trouble with finding a name you like, the email service will often give you suggestions based on your information (like your name, year you were born, etc.) when you sign up for the service.
Once you have signed up for your email service, the second thing you need to do is check to see if your name is taken as a domain. You could simply type ‘yourfullname.com’ into the browser or search engine to see if anything pops up, or you could visit the site BetterWhoIs.com and then register. Although it's possible to have another suffix such as -.net, -.org, etc., these may be more expensive and more difficult for users to remember.
Now that you have an email account and domain name, it is time to establish yourself on the web. An easy way to do this is through blogs. Blogs are immensely popular because they are constantly evolving and are voyeuristic by nature. You can use sites such as Blogger, LiveJournal and WordPress to begin your blog and then export those to your website.
When you sign-up for your blog, you'll need to have a username, an avatar (a picture of you or one you find suitable) and to pick a theme for your blog. Once you have done this you can moderate who comments on or views your blog and/or allow other users to subscribe to your blog.
Now you have an established web persona. Just remember, that this persona or identity needs to be updated on a regular basis to remain interesting and correct. Even if you only blog a couple times a week, this should be enough to keep your domain current. Also, if you would like to use this web persona simply as a professional site, there are other ways to keep in contact with old friends and colleagues. You can do this through various social networking sites.