Making a .name for yourself 7 September, 2006 — Stuart Brown
The art of the online personal profile
Since the earliest days of the internet, back when it was an academic resource, there have been personal profile pages. We've come a long way from thesis attributions however- now millions of people have some form of presence online - whether it's a personal portfolio or just a MySpace profile. So why so many, and what makes for an effective online profile?
This has been on my mind the last few weeks as I've been redesigning my on personal profile page at stua.rtbrown.org. I was looking to tie together a bunch of links with a profile-type page, along with contact information and my profiles on a few various sites. (I make no apologies for the quirky del.icio.us style dots, all the good domains were taken)
I plan to add more CV-type information and add more weight to the web design section, but I wanted to update and replace the old page as soon as possible. It was harder than I thought - there was quite a lot of thought that went into designing the page, as I had to consider a large number of different roles for the profile.
Defining a purpose
One of the challenges was to decide exactly what the purpose of the profile was. In the past, I've had a profile 'simply because I could', but now I'm working as an independent freelancer I need a point of contact I can refer people to - so, in my case I needed a site that could provide both contact details and show at least some examples of my work.
Generally speaking, most profiles on the web have a similar intent - academic profiles will want people to contact them regarding their work, profiles on social networking sites will want to garner friends and messages, and profiles on creative portfolios will be seeking leads.
Some profiles are short, others are perhaps a little long, but all share similar basic features - contact details, a brief history, links to relevant sites, etc. I didn't think it was a good idea to veer too far from this core idea.
Of course, this whole Web2.0 nonsense has brought around a whole new wave of potential for online profiles and social networking, so I thought I'd go beyond the usual static bio...
Becoming Web2.0 Enabled
Another important factor in your modern online profile is the social aspect - if you want to make it big in Web2.0, you need to get yourself connected!
Just an email address isn't good enough - these days you'll need a del.icio.us account, a MySpace profile, and of course - a Flickr stream. Most of these services include some means of incorporating this content into your blog - whether it's your Bloglines blogroll, del.icio.us bookmarks, or a Flickr photostream badge, you can share it all without even breaking a sweat.
It's slightly gimmicky, perhaps - but this sort of integration with Web2.0 sites is novel, if nothing else - and it provides another level of interaction beyond the static text.
So, justification aside, I officially relaunched my personal profile last week - partly because the old one desperately needed updating, partly because I'm now officially a Top 5,000 blogger. I expect I'll change things around, and redraft the text, but the new profile should serve me well. Let me know your thoughts!
During the redesign of my profile, I took inspiration from a few other profiles and colophons from prominent online personalities. Here are some of my favourites:
Dan Cederholm : Modest yet impressive client list, beautiful design.
Dave Shea : Concise list of publications. Pleasingly blue.
Xeni Jardin : Image-centric, succinct bio.
Heather Armstrong : Personal, retrospective, funny.