Zen and the Art of Maintaining a Website: the world is changing and we need to move with it
Right, people! This article comes with a warning: if you are under 35 please stop reading now since anything I say is probably a second nature to you. Go learn something that may be useful to you. If, on the other hand, you are over forty stay with me a little longer and judge for yourself – this still may be something that you have caught on to already.
Sometime ago, I was telling a colleague of mine – remember I work at a university – about The Money Principle; I was feeling so proud because the blog was/is doing well, the readership is growing and I have created a platform for sharing, discussion and learning. OK, the learning is of a different kind from the one I offer my students, I’ll grant you that, but this doesn’t necessarily make it less valid or effective. Quite the opposite – I have been noticing that blogging, learning to express things differently and learning so many new things has been affecting my teaching a great deal; and for the better.
Not to mention that blogging has enabled me to change by opening my mind to endless possibilities and new bodies of literature; of course it has been transforming the way I think about things. This change and fusion of ideas has had a very interesting effect on my research – the dynamics of ideas this has been creating has led to starting new research lines (with the corresponding funding) and people have been writing to say that they enjoy reading my academic papers. So far, so good!
But this is why, my colleague’s response to me talking about The Money Principle came as a bit of a surprise.
‘I wouldn’t mention the blog if I were you; people will laugh at you!’
My first reaction?
‘What the heck! Why would they laugh when I have worked so hard to create something like that?’
My annoyance still simmering and my identity bruised (after all, I was angry with snooty academics and I am an academic) I started thinking; then I did some research; then I thought some more. In a nutshell, what I found was the following:
- Most successful people, irrespective of their ‘trade’ have personal websites and they keep some sort of blog. This holds for academics, scientists, writers, doctors, builders, psychotherapists, you name it.
- Today this is the way to get ‘exposure’ and though most blogs are fairly simple they do the job.
- Most people maintain websites and blogs not because these make money (let’s face it, most bloggers don’t make money though they may want to) but because sites/blogs support their ‘main business’. My friend who is a psychotherapist, for instance, gets many clients through her website. We all know that the mighty Tim Ferriss has a website (blog) he craftily uses to promote his books.
- It has been quite a few years since I went to any meeting, workshop or a conference without ‘googling’ the people I am meeting first. When I asked around – I asked a lot of people from home and afar – we all do the same.
- In research there is an increase in open access publishing which is mainly done via electronic platforms.
So out goes “people meet you by your clothes” and in comes “people meet you by your internet presence”.
This made me realise that the world has changed more than I thought it has; and that instead of people (academic included) laughing at the ones who build and maintain blogs it may be smarter to join them!
The question I asked myself next is what is stopping people joining the virtual presence movement. I came up with four ‘failure points’ which I’ll address in turn.
I am not a techie
Honestly, neither am I. Two years ago, just before I started The Money Principle, I asked John ‘what is a blog’; he had really hard time explaining and I still didn’t understand the half of it. It is all so very confusing: registering a domain, setting up a website, choosing a platform, knowing your theme from your widget and your header from your strip line.
I had John who did all that; in fact The Money Principle has a bespoke theme that he coded. I write and just the other week learned that my blog is registered with 123Reg; and a good thing this was. Because having a look around it, I realised that it is not that difficult to set up a relatively simple website and that 123Reg offer a function to create a site that needs hardly any technical expertise.
What I am saying is you don’t have to be a techie to build a website/blog and you can always contract this out – whether you go with something simple you can get ‘a la carte’ from a well-known provider or commission the development of a more complex site.
I am not a writer
Well, most people are not writers. At the same time most people can learn to write if they put sufficient effort in it. Whilst I have always written, I wasn’t a writer when I started The Money Principle. To come even close to calling myself ‘writer’ I had to complete my 10,000 hours – and there is still loads of space for growth in all kinds of writing I do.
What you are at the moment matters little; what is important to focus on is what you can become. Anyone can learn to write!
There is too much to learn
True. Building and maintaining a website/blog entails a lot of learning – both about blogging and about your subject.
What is wrong with learning and why are you trying to save yourself from it? In fact, I believe that we get old not because of the passing of time (this is only a technicality) but because we stop trying new things and learning.
I have no time
Time is precious in our modern, breathlessly rushing around societies. There are many demands on this commodity, I would agree. Often ‘I have no time’ is simply an excuse, though, and it is used by the same people about many things. People have no time to exercise, to take courses, to read, to go to a concert; the same people have time to play computer games and watch TV. Go figure!
If your schedule is really so busy that you don’t have any time to build and maintain a website make some: the way things are going today you have no time but tomorrow you may have no work.
Internet presence is essential in variety of occupations and although establishing it entails learning, dedication and commitment my experience has been that it is well worth it.
Have you thought about maintaining a personal website and what is stopping you?
Oh, I almost forgot: there is nothing Zen about this article, it just sounded good .