Read Write Interview – Telling the Story of My Domain

Alan Levine recently put out a request for stories about domains as a part of the Ontario Extend project

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

In part, my domain name comes from my interest in the notion of marginalia, the stuff that we write, but never gets written. As J. Hillis Miller explains:

As we read we compose, without thinking about it, a kind of running commentary or marginal jotting that adds more words to the words on the page. There is always already writing as the accompaniment to reading.

It was also inspired by a friend, Fiona Hardy, and her blog Read, Watch, Listen. My first incarnation was on Blogger, where I had to use Reading Writing Responding. Although I liked the active nature of this, it was just too long.

I also had a little help from some friends as a part of the Connected Courses MOOC:

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

My move from Blogger was initially about finding a place of my own. I saw a domain as being an opportunity to renovate and stick up posters without the landlord coming through for inspection. The wider ramifications for having a domain had not even crossed my mind. Not only could I have a space of my own, but in fact have infinite spaces, each with their own purpose.

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?

Initially my attention was my primary site. However, my interest in (sub) domains was piqued as I opened the door to the #IndieWeb and the idea of POSSE. I setup an instance of Known and started using it for posting images to Flickr. This is one of the ways I have found self-hosted different from WordPress.com or Blogger. Although you can add a domain to both platforms, when it is your own space, there is so much more you can do with it.

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

Beyond my main space, I have created a number of sites for various purposes. They have included:

  • Aaron Davis – Built on Alan Levine’s Big Picture theme, I designed this space as a landing page for my presence on the web. My own version of an About.me page.
  • Read Write Wikity – Built on Mike Caulfield’s Wikity theme/platform, this space was about developing knowledge over time. It is an extension on social bookmarking.
  • #WhatIf – Interested in the possibilities and potential of Known, I started a short blog to record ‘What Ifs’. This is partly influenced by Amy Burvall’s #rawthoughts and Ian O’Byrne’s own short blog IMHO.
  • Read Write Curate – A Known site developed in my exploration of POSSE.

More recently I have made some effort to condense some of these spaces into a secondary site, Read Write Collect. In part this stemmed from my interest inreclaiming the presence on the web. One of the limitations is that webmentions can only be attached to so many sites, so that is why I moved much of my content into two spaces.

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

What has helped me is having continual support from Reclaim Hosting. Not only do they help in resolving most of my technical issues, but they also have a wealth of resources too. If there is something that I still need to work on it is archiving some of my older sites as static HTML, as well as sharing resources across my sites.

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

I am sure there will be cases for spinning up a new domain to test a new application and/or theme. For example, I am interested in PressForward as a means of organising research if I ever went further with my studies. Overall though, I am pretty happy with how things are at the moment.

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?

It is easy to create a WordPress.com or Edublogs site and add in your own URL. This will often alleviate concerns around updates and security. However, the effort required in maintaining your own space seems a small price to pay for the power and possibility it can provide.


It feels like every time I tell my story I add something different. I am sure that there are parts I have left out or failed to elaborate. If this is the case, feel free to leave a question or a webmention. The conversation only starts here.


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Finding the Tools to Sing – A Reflection on Big B Blogging

Quote on tools from Austin Kleon

I started writing this post a few months ago but did not get around to finishing it, subsequently my initial notes have lay waiting. I was reminded of it by recent posts from Jim Groom and Alan Levine reflecting on the purpose of blogging. Here then is my contribution to the conversation.


In the March edition of the Loose Learners podcast, Mariana Funes and John Johnson discussed the difference between small b and big B blogging. In part, this was a response to a post by Tom Critchlow on ideas and the power of the network.

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale.

Although big B blogging maybe associated with link blogging and ‘interesting ideas’, the focus is on broadcasting, rather than connecting and commenting. The notion of big B blogging is usually associated with those like Jason Kottke, John Gruber and Richard Byrne.

In a recent interview, Kottke shared how his blogging has developed over time. He explains in particular how advertising and making money from his site has changed. What is interesting is the connection between big B blogging and making money. Although he shares his workflow and intent, what comes through is that it is still a job. I wonder if there is another possible definition of ‘Big B’ blogging that goes beyond advertising?

When I think about blogging, there is a cross-over between technology and the way it is used. Big B bloggers are those who take each to their extremes. Content is important. But so is process and product. It is something personal, stemming from our changing circumstances and intent.

For me, blogging is about utilising the various features and affordances available, but also trying to push the boundaries in understanding how they work. In Martha Burtis’ keynote for Domains17, she argued that Domain of One’s Own is more than just learning WordPress, rather it is about learning how to “publish online in an open-source Web application”. As she explains,

Every moment in which we walk a student through a fix is a deeply teachable moment — a moment not just to provide step by step instructions but to narrate for them what each step means. When we bring meaning to the breaking and the fixing we are pushing beyond the boundaries of the merely practical.

For some this experience is distributed across several spaces, such as a space to collect ‘breadcrumbs’ and a main space for longer forms. For others, it is about creating spaces specific purposes and then syndicating back to one place.

I think that this is what interests me about the IndieWeb. The focus is not just about content, but how content is presented. This focus on what and how stems from a why of developing a ‘demonstrably better web’.

So big B blogging to me is about allowing growth and development both personally and collectively. Although some spaces may have subscription accounts, this is not necessarily what keeps the lights on.

So what about you? What does blogging mean to you? How do you find balance between creation and construction? As always, comments welcome.


Also posted on IndieNews


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Why Blogging (Still) Matters


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

My daughter recently started at a new school. One of the things that stood out to me was the use of Facebook for classroom communication. Every class is setup with a private page, where information is shared. To me this fits perfectly with the argument that we need to go where the people are and it seems these days a lot of people spend their time in Facebook. Already being there means that little effort needs to be applied to getting things going, whether this be signing up or instructions as to how to use it. The problem though is that just because people are already there does that mean that it is the best space for the task?

I remember when I was told of the changes to online permissions by the Victorian State Government. A part of a push to be more mindful of student data. My first thought was that the legal department were crashing the party. My mind was taken back to the supposed halycon days when a blanket permission slip would cover all sorts of online frivolity, with endless amounts of Web 2.0 programs and applications. However, times have changed. Doug Belshaw describes this as the move to the Post-Snowden Era. It is a scepticisim epitomised by Cory Doctorow in Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, when he says:

Without a thorough understanding of our computers’ workings, and without independent verification of their security, it’s impossible to trust our machines.

It is for this reason that we can no longer just use what may work best (as if we ever should have), but what is in fact the most appropriate on all levels.

Maybe the problem is where the data is housed, maybe it is about who is in control of content, maybe it is about the decisions of edtech company. There are so many things to consider. Some of these ethical questions include:

Does the service/app require an account to be created? If so, why?

Does the service let you delete content? This should apply not only to finished work, but also the elements of that work. For example, if you upload photographs to make a slideshow, does it let you delete those photographs later?

Does the service easily let you delete your account? Does it include an ‘Account Deletion button’ in a menu? (Check out JustDelete Me for a guide to deleting some services. The site also has a Fake Identity Generator to help you get started with a dummy account)

Does the service require you to login with a ‘real name’, or can you just use a private handle instead? If it does require a real name, why?

Does the service easily let you export the work you create in standard formats? (e.g. TXT, PDF, DOC, MP4, MP3, MOV, XLS, CSV, JSON,HTML etc) Can you save the work to your device and take it with you when you close an account?

Do you have full control over sharing/unsharing and publishing of work online?

Does the service only ask for necessary permissions? For example, many browser extensions ask for permission to access your data on all websites, or mobile apps ask for your location. Some of these permissions are necessary for the service to work, but if a service seems to be asking for a lot of unnecessary permissions, then it may be best to avoid it.

Does the service have a clear, easy to read and transparent privacy policy? Is there a link to the Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy on the homepage? If it’s hard to find, hard to read, or non-existent, then think long and hard about why that is.

Does the service treat user data and content in an ethical manner? Do users have control over they license they apply to their work? Is the work easily embeddable on other sites? Will the company sell the work (or even worse, details about a user’s identity) to other services and advertisers?

How does this service make money? What is the business model? Online tools are expensive to build and maintain, so if there isn’t a clear model for how that service will make money, then it may be that data is being sold to advertisers, or the service will eventually move to a paid model or be sold or closed.

With the demise of the Ultranet, such questions have become more pertinent as schools search for the next digital solution.

In her post, Beyond the LMS, Audrey Watters recounts her experiences with Blackboard Collaborate and the problems she faced. After initially developing content in an open space provided by the institution, she was ‘encouraged’ to publish everything through the learning management system. From quizzes to resources to syllabi to discussion forums.  The problem she faced was that her and her students continually lost access to the content and communications once the subject was finished as the only way to access the content was through the site.

One example of an LMS that has been embraced by many schools of late is Compass. Like Watters’ experience with Blackboard, Compass too poses many similar questions. Although you maybe able to access past content, it is never made easy. One of the biggest curses is the amount of clicks to get anywhere. In addition to this, there is little avenue for students to communicate and collaborate. It is neither a campfire nor watering hole. Although as a platform it provides many of the same functionalities offered by the Ultranet, one absence is the possibility for meaningful student action. Whereas the Ultranet provided a space for play and creation, this is the one aspect that seems missing.  Maybe such spaces are walled to protect students. Maybe they are really about improving communication between home and school? Maybe they are about control and management? However, are we really supporting students if we are limiting their possibility for voice and choice through such spaces.

One solution to this is to publish your work, whether staff or student, at one canonical address and link elsewhere. This elsewhere could be Compass, Edmodo, Facebook or Google Classroom. Blogs offer the most obvious solution for such as a space. Whether it be as a portfolio, a social media stream, social bookmarking, class blog, project or subject space, they offer so many different possibilities. While a site like Edublogs may involve some effort in regards to another site to login to or to manage. It offers a lot more possibility and flexibility in the long run. Blogging still matters.

Although developing a canonical address in Edublogs may not go to the point of setting students up with a domain of their own, as Audrey Watters proposes, it does at least provide the possibility to take their data and do with it what they would like. Something Alan Levine describes as co-claiming. This is something that can be overlooked in the choice of spaces.

So what about you, how do you support students, while also considering some of the ethical questions? How do you push back against what is easiest, to consider what might be best? As always, comments welcome.


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