Why (Not?) Consolidate Your Digital Presence

Not long ago my eportfolio was called Laura Gogia: Reigning in the Digital Sprawl (Clarifying point: you are reading a post on my blog right now, not my e-portfolio). My e-portfolio isn’t called that anymore in part because I change the purpose, organization, and appearances of my websites – including this one – fairly regularly.*  However, when the “reigning in the digital sprawl” was present in the title, it referred to the fact that almost all the content exhibited on the site was being pulled in from other digital platforms. There was a bit of dedicated “about me” content on the static front page, but the other pages were custom links to other digital platforms, including slideshare.com (presentations), YouTube (videos); academia.edu (formal papers); Flickr (my photography); other WordPress sites (my blog and other collaborative projects); and Google docs (my CV).  The front page also included (and still does include) my Twitter and Instagram timelines, embedded via widgets in the sidebars.

A screenshot of the front page of my e-portfolio,  early 2016. Every “page” is a link to another digital platform. Notice the Twitter timeline in the bottom left side.  The “What is this?” is the only dedicated content found on this website

My digital presence was and still is so decentralized that it requires “reigning in.”  Why? Because it was an organic development emerging from and integrated into the needs of my everyday activities.  I needed a place to publish slides to share with audiences, so…Slideshare.  Then I needed a place to publish papers so that I could share them with colleagues…Academia.edu.  I like to share my photography with friends and family…Flickr.

And so on and so forth.

As unplanned and unscripted as my decentralized digital presence was, there was something safe in keeping everything separate.  It would be the rare person who could/would find all the parts of me strewn across the Internet.  That’s fine of course, particularly if you are trying to share only one part of yourself with an audience. However,  I’m 40.  I’m tired of compartmentalizing.  I’ve done that before, and for my second career I’m trying something different.

Hence the centralization of my digital presence.

Most of the centralization that occurs on my website made sense to most people. Of course the e-portfolio would showcase writing, resumes, and other professional activities. The photography was a bit more “out there,” but it adds the creative touch that is almost expected in the digital pedagogies. Furthermore, my photography grounds and inspires the rest of my work. If you visited my office between 2014 and early 2016, you know that I like to have my pictures around me in physical spaces too.

But what about the Twitter and Instagram timelines?

I’ll be honest, I thought long and hard about whether I wanted those on my website – particularly when I was in the process of looking for a job.  What happens if I have a bad night or a bad Twitter interaction on the very night that a potential boss decides to review CVs and check out my e-portfolio?  Ultimately, I decided to keep my timelines on the portfolio, for a couple of reasons:

  1. I am my timelines. These timelines give the most accurate, real time picture of what I’m thinking about, how I interact with people, and who I am in a minute-to-minute kind of way…the kind of way that doesn’t translate itself through journal articles or even blog posts (which take hours, months, or years to complete).  It’s who I am – better that a potential partner or boss know a little of that prior to commitment.
  2. When my timelines are on my website, I try even harder to be my best self.  I’m not perfect. I’m downright annoying sometimes. I’ve drunk tweeted my academic heroes before – a problem I’ve (hopefully) solved through experimentation with various solutions. However, reminding myself that my timelines are also on my websites – it’s added incentive to be my best self.  By thinking about these things and safeguarding against them…yes I’m putting myself in harms way by risking a public presence in the first place, but it’s a relatively minor risk (particularly in the student stages) and it’s taught me a lot about myself, restraint, vulnerability, and forgiveness (of self and others).  These are lessons that have applications above and beyond social media.  You have to risk it to win it.
  3. It makes the website dynamic.  We don’t blog everyday.  We don’t publish papers every day.  We tweet everyday.  It livens things up and provides opportunity to convey snippets of information that don’t necessarily require an entire post.
To Embed Twitter Timelines

If you think embedding a Twitter timeline is right for you, there are plenty of tutorials available on the topic – just google it.  However, not all WordPress sites are created equal. Among my dozen websites, I have RamPage sites (the Virginia Commonwealth University WordPress community), free (less flexibility, “wordpress” in your url)  wordpress.com sites, and hosted (e.g. more flexibily, no “wordpress” in your url, costs you money) wordpress sites.  You can embed Twitter timelines in the widget sections on each one of these types of sites but typically in different ways.  For the record, Tom Woodward is the RamPages guru.  If I don’t know how to do something or I’ve forgotten how to do it, he answers all my questions – including reminding me how to embed Twitter timelines (because it’s been awhile since I’ve done it on a RamPages site). So, thank you Tom.

If you are using RamPages, start by going to your dashboard and clicking on settings.

Step 1: Dashboard –> Jetpack –> Settings

 Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 5.57.11 PM

Step 2: Scroll down to “Extra Sidebar Widgets and click “Activate.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 5.57.42 PM

Step 3: Go to Appearance, click on Widgets, and then drag the Twitter Timeline (Jetpack) to the widget area of your choice (these will be different depending on your theme…usually there are sidebars and/or footer spaces).

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 5.58.29 PM

Step 4: Follow the directions found here.  And if you can’t follow them, that’s ok.  Ping me on Twitter and we’ll walk through it over the phone. 

*I’m not trying to suggest this is best practice or similar.  This is evidence of me trying to figure things out but also being in a constant state of transition. I live in a constant state of transition.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. tutormentor1 says:

    Hi Laura.

    I enjoyed reading this. I’ve never created an on-line personal bio for Dan Bassill, but rather focused on creating an on-line space where ideas were being shared to support what people do to help inner city kids move through school and into jobs and careers. My web sites fit the description of your e-portfolio. I point to lots of different places, which are sites I manage, which were created in the past by volunteers and/or consultants to serve a specific purpose. In addition, I point to an even larger number of places, which are sites with valuable information, that are managed by others. For instance I’ve a link to the Collaborative Curiosity: Designing Community-Engaged Research in a section of my web library that focuses on cMOOCs and learning.

    Over the years I’ve been reminded often of the disadvantages of this, starting with lack of common look and feel, or branding, and extending to the difficulty in navigating through this web of connected web sites. On one level, I’ve accepted this, since I’ve never had the resources to make it better. On another, I’ve embraced the fact that there is more information on other people’s pages that I want my site visitors to find and use, than there is on my own pages.

    People who are concerned about the issues I focus on will make the time to navigate the many different paths.

    I hope.

    Thanks for your tips. I hope you can continue to share like this as you move into your new career.


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