On the day I launched this site, I talked about what this blog will be. I promised that a more in-depth post about having a personal Web site for the first time in quite a while, because that’s a bigger and more interesting subject.
For some background, I had a Web page through two places within the past couple of decades. At first, I had one through my alma mater’s student system, as they had a setup that allowed for it. When that went away, I then used GeoCities (a trip back in time there!) Of course, as we all know, GeoCities is a thing of the past as well. After that, I didn’t bother with a Web site, largely because I didn’t know much about what was needed for one. I didn’t know about hosting or how files got from one place to the other – odd, I know, for an engineer to say that, but it was mainly because I didn’t look into it.
I also felt like I didn’t need one so much. After all, I had LinkedIn since signing up in 2007, as well as Facebook (and Twitter, to a lesser degree). I felt like that was all I needed, and such an idea was often espoused by others. It was said that having a “Web presence” meant being active on one of those sites, especially LinkedIn from a professional standpoint. There was no urgency on my part to do anything else.
But a funny thing has happened on the way to 2017. As time went on, I heard many people – especially podcast hosts and guests – talk about the importance of having your own site or blog. Michael Hyatt, the author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World and owner of the related Platform University, would often speak of it when talking about blogging. It comes down to who is in charge.
Sure, we have LinkedIn Publishing, which provides a great platform, but what if LinkedIn were to drastically change that tomorrow? We can have a Facebook page for our business, or even a business page for ourselves – many people I know have one that is purely business and use their personal one for just a select group of friend and also don’t put anything personal on it – but what if Facebook makes a big change next that does not work well for you? Furthermore, there are many blogging platforms out there; LiveJournal was one of the first that I knew about, Blogger, TypePad (where no less a big name than Seth Godin has his blog) and others have existed. WordPress basically rules the day now, and it is what I use here and for Hoopville, albeit as self-hosted pages. But what if one of them were to go away, or greatly alter the platform to the point where a static link to one of your entries suddenly turns up nothing because they changed the entry link nomenclature?
Those are just the beginning considerations. In an ad on his podcast for HostGator (which provides hosting for my site), Jordan Harbinger at one point brings up how someone could get your post or entry deleted, or your page suspended or deleted for a Terms of Service violation that may be the equivalent of what we used to call the work of a “tattle tale” back in grade school. (I know that well – I was once one of those kids, and it actually got me in more trouble than it did anyone else. There is probably a lesson in there somewhere.)
I have noticed how changes can be for the worse in more subtle ways. For example, a couple of years ago, Facebook changed how posts sharing something from a WordPress page came through with regard to an accompanying image. On Hoopville, the vast majority of the stories have no photographs – only an icon with the photo of the author, a Hoopville logo, or the logo of something in the story, be it a school, conference, event, or sponsoring company. It used to be that the featured image – the author photo or logo – would show up as part of the post on Facebook (not unlike how it looks on Twitter right now; for a welcome example, see this tweet sharing a recent college basketball conference post-mortem). Not anymore; now, it’s blank unless there is a photograph in the story that it will pull out to go with the post link. Several other bloggers have been annoyed at this just like I have, but to my knowledge there isn’t anything we can do about it.
All of this points to the reality that places like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and others are not under our control. The analogy made is to note that you would not build a house on rented land, so why build your Web presence around that? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others are great, but they are rented land; they can change things on a dime and you could be stuck. Your own Web site, on the other hand, suffers from nothing of the sort.
Besides this, I started to notice more and more people having their own Web site, even if it was somewhat minimal. I would see other engineers, CEOs, TV personalities, even writers at Web sites – people who already have a platform – doing the same thing. Having owned my own domain name for years but not having done anything with it, I felt the time was now. Hearing ads with the hosting company I now use, and subsequently finding out that they at least match the one I have used for years in most important categories helped further spur me.
As I noted in the original post, this also provides a platform I control to share my thoughts on a wide variety of subjects aside from anything related to college basketball, which is covered at Hoopville. That was a big plus since I wanted to write more outside of college basketball, and in a setting I have control over. Relatively speaking, this site should be pretty low-maintenance save for the blog, and the blog is a higher maintenance component by design.
Nowadays, brand management is important for all of us. It’s not just for companies, especially the big ones who often have very valuable brands. Having something like a personal Web site whose content you are in control of goes a long way towards that. I recommend you do the same thing for your own personal brand if you have not done so already. You don’t have to do it as a self-hosted WordPress blog like I have, or even have a blog as part of it at all, but there is a lot to be said for doing it.
This site has been several months in the making in a direct sense. But as the online world and the realities of it have been evolving, in truth this has been in the making a lot longer. Now it is reality, and I have a house that is not on rented land. I’ll use the rented land to help draw people here and ultimately to where I can help them.