From the Boidem - 
an occasional column on computers and information technologies in everyday life

April 30, 2002*: On regaining a cyberdentity.

For approximately three years my signature file has informed anyone who might want to know that I'm "temporarily without accessible personal web pages" *. Although one might claim that much (if not too much) of the Boidem functions as "personal web pages", the basic intent of that phrase was that I didn't have a web site with a short bio of me, photos of my children, a list of books that I've read or records I've bought, and links to my favorite sites. Though the topic of personal web pages holds special interest for me, I have to admit that when my first few attempts at personal web sites melted into air I didn't feel any particular pressure, or even urge, to reconstruct them.

But it seems that, along the lines of death and taxes, some things are unavoidable. And among these (at least for someone for whom being online isn't only a pleasant diversion, but essentially a source of income, if not a way of life) having a web site is high up on the list. So it was only a matter of time until I'd once again post what might best be referred to as personal pages. Essentially it's a function of the standard Mallory answer.

Then again, perhaps it's something even more banal than that. Most of what I do is internet-related. I've written, or worked on, numerous sites that are scattered over numerous servers. These sites comprise, to a large extent, my CV. Though I'm not looking for work at the moment, there are still numerous reasons why someone might want to see what I've done (or why I might want to direct someone to see what I've done). I'll even admit to a certain amount of pride that stems from seeing most of my various web activities concentrated at, or at least accessible from, one URL. A personal site can (and in my case does) serve the purpose of directing traffic - of concentrating links to those projects under one roof.

But even if I've reached the conclusion that I have to have an accessible web site, numerous questions still continue to present themselves. Among these are some pretty basic items like:

Have I answered those questions? If not to my readers, at least to myself? Have I come to the conclusion that I need a web site so that if someone, on some outside chance, decides that he or she wants to know a bit about me, he or she will be able to get that information without getting even more confused about me by reading the Boidem? Frankly, yes. In my line of work, I need a web site like other people need a business card.

But even if I've reached some sort of clear decision on each of these questions, I still haven't overcome my ambivalence. Which in itself is perhaps a bit strange. After all, in our day and age, what's so difficult about posting a few web pages? And if it's going to cause me so much soul-searching, why go through with this at all? The Boidem has, since its inception, contained a page that attempted to give a bit of personal details. Actually, that page also served as a clearinghouse, directing the reader to other sites that had some personal details. For this edition of the Boidem that page has been rewritten. It was a task that has demanded attention for years, and one that always seemed to call out to me in a small but demanding voice. But judging from the fact that I left it unattended for so long, it appears that somehow I never felt overly uncomfortable about leaving it the way it was.

Now, however, not only has that page been updated, but a real personal web site has been posted. I no longer have to worry about whether or not I want a web site. Instead I have to start worrying about whether it's being updated, and whether it really reflects who I am, and whether (and why) it projects a different persona than that projected by these columns. Do those personae represent the same person? Are they going to cooperate with each other? Will a reader who gets to know one of them recognize the other? Will I? In one sense, returning to cyberspace with a personal web site means I've regained a cyberdentity. In another, it means that I've added another.

That's it for this edition. Reactions and suggestions can be sent to:

Jay Hurvitz

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