A Website Reflection: 10 Years Later




The relationship between teacher and student is complex due to the abundance of outside factors that contribute to the relationship. In a post Covid-19 world, one of the greatest factors that affects this relationship is technology. The technology is not created by a teacher typically, as Martha Fay Burtis points out, but is instead created by third party organizations that decide what is and is not important for an educator to use in their classroom as well as outside of it. This has the ability to make the education process predictable.
There are times and ways to take back control from these third party systems and put it in the hands of the student in order for them to be explorative and creative. Burtis points out the use of WordPress and how its prominence has taken over a large amount of internet use, and the significance of its customization that the platform provides. WordPress does provide what Burtis calls “Critical Properties” of technology in higher education in the naming of things, the building of things, the breaking of things, and the knowing of things, all of which I became familiar with while in high school, but not because of anything related to the classroom material itself.
In high school I wanted to be a music journalist. I created what I will proudly call one of the most atrocious websites that may have ever been made, but it was customized by my limited ability, and that was saying something. While I won’t disclose the name of this website, I will say it had thousands of hits per month on the various CD reviews and interviews I conducted on weekends. This, to me, was success. Yet now, looking back, I realize how poorly the project was named, how the name captured what 14 year old me thought it was trying to accomplish, and how that name does not fit at all with what 31 year old me recognizes as the goals of 14 year old me. If naming something calls it into existence, then for better or worse, my website existed, though I’m happy to say it does so only in memory now.
I built the website using an online hosting service nearly a decade before the rise of websites like Wix. Hours were spent examining code, shifting things into position that would most likely not work, but were still worth the valiant effort. Despite my limited ability, the building of the website filled me with pride. It was mine, I was building something bigger than myself.
The breaking of things became a big component of the site. Every weekend 3 to 5 of us would go to Borders or Barnes and Noble, take over a table, and go over issues with the website, everything from coding of banners, to integrating video and audio, to buttons that failed to move to the correct pages. I became a master of breaking things, not of fixing them, but certainly of breaking them. With no mentor to guide me, no online resources that I was confident to use, my website became a personal mess that I oddly, greatly cherished.
Through this experience I would say that I grew to know more than I ever dreamed of, about my ability, about the internet and late 2000’s SEO, about the bands I loved, about the need for patience and understanding while working with technology with a limited knowledge of the inner workings of the materials. I learned to be brave, and to take chances.
Today that website no longer exists. We never made a penny for advertising, we never were paid to review music. Upkeep of the website became secondary to work and personal issues that eventually led us to dissolve the project. In the end, we were burnt out by our failures, even after acknowledging we became moderately successful while not having a clue as to what we were doing.
Reading Burtis’s thoughts forced me to think back on a time in my life where I was interested in the network and community that could be built using the internet. I sometimes question how successful this site could have been if any of us had proper education in media literacy, in web development, in the fundamentals of building a community. Personally, the best part of the project to me wasn’t the free concerts and meeting the musicians, it is just now, as I get to sit back some ten years later and say “I was there, I did that.”


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