Building an Online Presence

Introducing yourself as a learner and developing the habit of working openly will help you connect with your peers and expand your network. Perhaps you've heard the saying, it's not what you know, it's who you know.

Well, it's also about who knows you. Maintaining an online presence is a way to document who you are and what you're learning for both personal and professional development. It's a way for other people, all over the world, to find you and understand what you're working towards. If you want to understand why this is important at a meta-level, check out the Connecting Module.

The goal of open is:

participation. rocket fuel for smart collaboration.

agility. speed. flexibility. getting shit done.

momentum. communities want to push boulders that are already rolling.

testing and rapid prototyping. iterating and refining as we go.

leverage. getting greater bang from limited resources. punching above our weight.

--Matt Thompson, How to Work Open

When you begin to build a digital identity, there are many free services that you can use, and you'll continue to use those services as your digital footprint grows. However, as you develop your web literacy competencies and skills, you'll begin to need a space that you can control.

Setting up a blog is essential to working openly. Blogging is a good reflective exercise, and publishing early and often throughout your thought processes will invite people into your work. It also allows you to track your own progression of learning, store information and otherwise be your home on the web.

If you already have a blog, great, you can use that for Webmaker Training. If this is the case, you can skip the first Make.

Register a Domain

Domain names are not bought, they are registered and you pay to register domain names for a set period of time - normally from one or two years. The rules and regulations surrounding registration of domain names can change from country to country and are also dependent on the country to which the domain name belongs. The registrar you use doesn't have to be in your country, but it should be someone that you're comfortable giving your money to.

Ask your peers in the Webmaker community for advice because they will have valuable information that you can use in your search for a domain registrar. You may even choose to use the same one.

Choosing a domain name can be easy or it can be very difficult. It all depends on what you're trying to do and there are no wrong or right answers. You can have any domain name that is not already registered. You can use sites like to check the availabilty of a domain name.

Many people choose to register their own name as their first domain name. This approach may not be the most exciting method, but it is very versatile and to the point. Domain hacking is another popular method for choosing a domain name. In this sense the term hacking refers to the art of combining all the parts of the domain to form an overall word., and are examples of domain hacking. Typically it costs a little bit more than a .com to register a domain suitable for hacking (there are often more legalities to it as well) so you might want to bear this in mind when selecting a name. The important part is that you register a domain name that you're happy with.

DNS and Hosting

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DNS is an acronym that stands for "Domain Name System". If you have a domain name, you're going to have to have a basic understanding of how DNS works because soon you'll have to modify your domains DNS records. But what does that mean?

Websites need somewhere to live. The hosting requirements for a new online presence are very basic and you do not need any special technologies. You just need a plain and simple hosting account with no added fancy stuff.

  1. Ask your peers to find out what are the best options and order your hosting account. Typically you'd want to make sure that whoever you choose has a support level that you're happy with (you may need to get in touch with them if something doesn't work) and that the price is within your budget. Many hosting companies offer a money back guarantee in case you're not happy so this may be worth bearing in mind.

  2. When you're satisfied that you're going to be looked after by the company you've decided to do business with, go ahead and order your hosting account.

  3. Once you have both a domain name and a hoster, you will need to modify the DNS records for your domain name and point it at your new hosting account

The theory behind what you have to do is the same regardless of who you bought your domain or hosting from, but the practical application of this theory will be different in every case. But don't worry, it's very simple.

  1. Get the IP address of the server that your hosting account is located on. You should have received this information from your host. Get in touch with them if you don't have it.

  2. Login to the website that you bought the domain from and find the screen that allows you to edit the DNS records for your domain. Modify the 'A record' for and set the IP address for the 'A record' to the IP address of your hosting account.

  3. Finally you want to modify or add the DNS record for and set it as a CNAME record for

Now you just have to wait for up to 24 hours ( although it's normally a lot sooner than that) for the DNS information for your domain to propagate across the internet.

Using Social

Don't be afraid to reach out, comment, share, think out loud. Part of building your online network is about helping others know who you are and what you care about. We'll expand this section soon, but for now take a look at Doug Belshaw's Why we need open distributed networks and visit the Find Help page to connect with #TeachTheWeb. You might also be interested in learning more about networks through the Connecting Module.


This module is under active development. We'd LOVE your help making this content better. Join the discussion forum and let us know how you'd like to improve the content or or start filing issues to get involved.

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