Indie Ed-Tech, The University And Personal APIs: Drawing Lines In The Sand To Define Our Digital Self

When you talk about Reclaim Hosting, or Reclaim Your Domain concepts of owning, and operating your domain, and living a POSSE way of life to your average IT or developer folk, they will most often shrug, point to GoDaddy, and let you know how its not a thing. When you have conversations with indie ed-tech folks, the conversation takes on a new form, helping individuals, organizations, and even entire higher educational instiutions, better understand their digital self. 

Ok, hippie, what is a digital self? This is the version of ourselves, our companies, and institutions have been giving birth to, for over the last 20 years of our increasingly online lives. Companies, organizations, institutions, government, and individual citizens are using the web to define who they are, often by having a website, a blog, or an Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook presence. Some companies are better at it than others, with many of the craftiest, convincing everybody else to develop their presence, within their domain -- owning the value of anything being generated.

I discussed one of many examples of this in action, with my story about operating your blog on Medium's platform. This isn't a bad thing, unless you haven't thought about the pros and cons, and are just giving away the value you generate (in this case blog posts), and don't take any steps to retain control over what you create each day. You need to understand where the lines exist in the sand, and take very opportunity you can to redraw those lines, in your favor--you know Ev Williams does this (he's savvy). 

Here is my line in the sand at Medium: 

It is in Medium's interest to get me to publish my stories (exhaust from my writing) here. However in my world, 98% of my writing always begins within my domain(s):

Every single idea for a story actually begins with a single API call to:

Sorry, you have to be authenticated to GET from that url, let alone POST new notes. This is where I flush out my ideas for stories, using my notes API.

Once an idea matures, it might eventually graduate to be a blog post:

I leave that endpoint open for anyone to GET from. My API Evangelist and Kin Lane blogs all pull their blog posts from here. When a new blog post is added, and tagged for publishing on either or, it triggers the publishing of the blog posts to the targeted web site.

At that moment in time the blog post is published under the CC-BY Creative Commons license

With each story published, and openly licensed within my own domain, now I can start thinking of other domains, where I might wish to grant a license, allowing them to use a copy. You might find my work at:

These are all lines I've drawn in the sand, as I work to define myself online. Some of these lines will fade over time, as I lose interest in a platform. I know I lost interest in:

And this line is getting pretty faded:

I know Tumblr is big for some folks, but I just never quite got excited about it, and don't really publish there (I stopped when posterous went away).

I really am just drawing lines in the sand--some of tehse lines fade away with time, with others playing varying roles in how I define myself online. Some of them play a strong part...

Twitter does this:

So does Github:

Both of these lines in the sand are very important to my digital self. I have agreements with both of these companies, when it comes to these lines. I pay almost $250.00 to Github, and I pay nothing to Twitter. I am constantly redrawing these lines in the sand, multiple times a day, while also feeling nervous about my relationship with both platforms on a daily basis. Twitter frustrates me more than Github, but I don't trust either of them to really give a shit about me and my lines in the sand on their beach. They could care less if I'm there each day to redraw these lines, or just fade away.

This is why everything in my world begins within my domain. There will always be a portion of my digital self that exists on other beaches, but my goal is to draw as many of the lines, store, and capture the value from my daily exhaust within my domain. If you run your own small business like I do, this is critical. This is how you will control your intellectual property, make your living, and mantain direction over your career, and where you go in life. The more you do this on other people's domain, the less ownership you will have, and the less control over the direction that you go.

This is the conversation we are having within our Indie Ed-Tech, University and Personal API working group, asking questions:

  • What does this look like from the insitutional standpoint?
  • What does this look like through a teachers eyes?
  • How do we we expose students to this way of thinking?

Schools like Brigham Young, University of Oklahoma, and Davidson, who are deploying domains for their students using providers like Reclaim Hosting, are pushing this conversation forward amongst institutional leadership, IT, faculty and students. Teachers and students can go beyond having subdomain or folder on the university domain, and launach their own domains. 

When you talk to CIO Kelly Flanagan (@kelflanagan) from BYU about the future, he wants to publish student information to the students domain. All incoming freshman receive their own domain, storage, and what they need to be digitally literate, something they will take with them when they leave school, and enter the real world -- setting a pretty high bar for the expectations of where the lines in the sand will exist for them.

The World Wide Web looks very different to a digitally literate invidual. When you are equipped to define your own world, and draw the lines in the sand as you see fit, and learn bend that in your favor, you know how to ask the right questions:

  • Is it possible for this to start in my own domain, then publish elsewhere?
  • Does this online service allow me to get my information out, and delete my account?
  • Is that line in the sand acceptable to me? Where are the opportunities for negotiation?
  • This information is important to me, will it be secure if I put it in that location?
  • What are the motivations of organizations I work for, and companies who's services I use?
  • I don't think that content, image, video, or other element reflects me, how do I delete it?
  • I don't think you are trustworthy with my information anymore, please end our relationship!

You become better equipped to ask the questions that you will need to define the version of your digital self, that you want to see. The one your customers will see. The profile(s) that your employers will see. The side of you that your friends and family will see. What you will need to make money from the exhaust generated by your hard work each day. While in college it may be for fun, but in a few years you will have a professional reputation to maintain.

As an individual, company, or institution you want as much control over your online existence as you possibly can. The lines you draw in the sand are important. It is critical that you stop from time to time and take assessment of the lines you've drawn (aka Google yourself). Get rid of old accounts. Clean up dead profiles. You should be also taking every opportunity that you can to make sure you draw lines within your domain, while also applying more thoughtfulness about the lines you draw in other people's domains.