Becoming comfortable with my digital home

December 21, 2023

I have read several articles recently about your personal site. Robin Rendle’s, I am a poem I am not software, and Manuel Moreale’s, The Personality of a Personal Website. Manuel’s post was inspired by Robin’s. I have also been reading through Matthias’ newsletter, Own Your Web for the past two months.

Robin talks about striking the right balance with your personal site and what you should prioritize when you approach it. Are you selling a product or selling yourself? How quirky can you get if you’re selling yourself and need to consider your audience? How can it communicate your unique personality while still fulfilling its purpose?

Manuel picks up the conversation by asking, “Which you is your personal site representing?” It ties into what Robin writes about but expands the conversation. Manual mentions that many people have chosen multiple sites to represent different parts of themselves–the professional, the athlete, the romantic partner, etc. He concludes that you need to be comfortable in your digital home no matter how you choose to approach it.

Just like many things, it depends. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Your site is a reflection of you. How do you want to present yourself? Do you try to be the holistic you with a variety of interests or do you stay more focused on one area of your life?

I have struggled with this for the entire eighteen years that I have written at this domain. I started this site to share things that I was learning or thinking about as a designer/developer in this very new medium. But being a Web developer is not all that I am. I have thought many times about dividing out and doing more than one site. Because I know that not everyone will be interested in my faith journey or want to hear about my other interests.

I know that Michelle Barker chose to be very focused with her blog at CSS in Real Life. A lot of the other people I followed earlier in this century were more focused on the web designer or developer part of themselves. There is a lot of value in that focus and I imagine it is much easier to build a following that way.

But I also had examples of people who shared more of themselves on their sites. I think of Jon Hicks or Simon Collison. Chris Coyier shares more broadly on his personal site. Of course, he was very focused on Web professionals with CSS Tricks. But I like being able to know Chris more broadly. But I know that not everyone would have the same preference.

Having multiple sites is not true to who I am. My life doesn’t have a lot of clear lines. They are mostly blurred. A remote working lifestyle fits me well because I mix of lot of my personal and professional life during the day. We homeschooled our kids. So working from home blurred a lot of lines in our family life.

So I think my site mirrors me well. I share about myself. Probably more of my professional self. I have been very guarded about what I share about my personal life online even though I am less reluctant if you interact with me in person.

But still, I wonder if my site should be more focused. Or my weeknotes? If you read about the origin of weeknotes, it seems that the original intent was that they were more focused on work and sharing things about your work life. I think my weeknotes were more that way in the beginning. But then they evolved and I embraced sharing more about my personal life.

Several years ago, I read Simon Collison’s, This used to be our playground. It was another article that got me thinking about my own site. I realized that I had lost some of the freedom that I had when I first started. I began to think about what others would think or what I thought they might think. I probably censored myself. I was more reluctant to share that I had read an article that others might deem as controversial and probably did not agree with the viewpoint.

I realized that I spent more time worrying about something being polished than I was to be able to get something out. There are lots of things I did not write about. I struggled to get started because I was more concerned about the audience. I did not worry much about those things in the earlier days of this site.

After reading Colly’s article, I made a decision that I am the main audience of my site. Simon talked about self-expression and self-documentation in his article. I realized that was the real value of my site. I was the one who benefitted most from what I wrote. And it gave me a place to express myself. I decided that I needed to focus on myself as the audience. If others got value from it, great. And I hope that they do.

This approach has freed me up to write so much more. And I have added features to help me find things that I documented. Many times, I have referred back to solutions I documented or things I read from others.

To give an example, I was having problems with animating SVGs in Firefox. My colleague found a solution that I wrote about in my weeknotes. About a year later, I was having an issue and I remembered that I had encountered it before. Through the search and some other vague things I remembered (like that my colleague had made a Codepen), I was able to find the solution and save myself some time.

A personal site is—or at least it should be—a reflection of whoever you want to be. It could be the complete you, one of the many versions of you, or even an aspirational you. Just be comfortable in your digital home. It’s all that matters.

Manuel Moreale, The Personality of a Personal Website

Though I still debate from time to time whether I should be more focused, I think I am comfortable with my digital home. I will probably rearrange the furniture and do some renovations but for now, I am happy about it being more of a reflection of the complete Jeff and not just Jeff the front-end developer.

This post is part of my attempt to post something every day for a month. I was inspired by Michelle Barker, who recently participated in National Blog Posting Month.

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