Making a website is fun!

In the past month or so I’ve been putting a lot of time and effort into increasing my professional web presence. In about a year I’ll be applying for academic positions, and it would sure be nice to be more visible to my potential employers. The sheer fact that you’re reading this means you’ve seen some of the fruits of my labor.

Why now?

It took me a while before I wanted to find out what area of linguistics I wanted to go into. I’ve been interested in a lot of things at one time or another: typology, documentation, indigenous languages of South America, language change, simulation, morphology, network analysis, forms of address, among other things. I’ve even gone to conferences presenting some of this research. But I knew at the time that whatever it was that I was presenting on wasn’t going to be what I wanted to be known for. So I didn’t bother networking with other people, and I hardly took people’s advice because I would brush this off and say it was just a glorified term paper.

But I’ve found my niche. I’m interested in sociolinguistics, dialectology, phonetics, phonology, and using computer and statistics to help me out. This is something I’d like to be known for. Right now I’m working on English in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m familiar with a lot of the work that’s been done in that area, so I know who to talk to at conferences because I’ve read a lot of their work.

Github

Over the past five years or so in my undergrad and graduate education, I’ve acquired some computer skills. I minored in linguistic computing, so I learned Perl and C# as a part of the required coursework. More importantly though, I learned that learning to use computers is pretty darn useful for my research. So I’ve learned a few other skills along the way to help me out with my larger linguistics questions.

Just this month I presented a paper on Quechua morphology. I mentioned in it that I wrote a computer script to help me out with generating the correct forms of the paradigm. One of the commentors in the Q&A session asked if the code was available on Github and I said it wasn’t. But why shouldn’t it be? That acted as a catalyst into getting a github profile and uploading some code. I also found out I could host a webpage (this webpage!) on there too. Well sweet.

Creating the webpage

Having never done web deisgn before, I had a lot to learn. Turns out you’ve gotta host the webpage somewhere. By that I mean that all the files and formatting and content and stuff in a webpage has to be stored on some computer somewhere. It can’t be mine, because I’ve set it up as a server and stuff and that’s way beyond me experteise—plus I’m pretty sure I don’t want to have my laptop as a web server. So luckily, Github, will host mine for free. Okay good.

The next task was to figure out how. I had recently heard about a website called The Programming Historian, which has a lot of slick, easy-to-follow tutorials on how to do useful computer stuff for research. Well, one of their pages is called “Building a static website with Jekyll and GitHub Pages”. Awesome. Now, to be clear, it wasn’t the easiest tutorial. You have to download all sorts of stuff to your computer using the command line and manage a bunch of files and stuff. But that’s fine. I got it. I was able to create a simple webpage.

Well, I’m never really satistifed with the default design of things, and I like having unlimited flexibility in how things look. So, I went over to Lynda.com, which I have access to through UGA, and took a more detailed course on how to build a webpage using Jekyll. And it was great. I learned a lot and figured out what a lot of stuff means.

But, I’m still not satisfied with the way it looks. I learned how the website works in that course, but not a lot of formatting. So I’m currently taking another Lynda.com course in CSS, which I think will help me a lot. As it turns out, the concepts are very similar to the job I did as an undergrad, where I essentially created eBooks for a program called WordCruncher.

My goal in all this is to be able to make a beautiful webpage that is uniquely mine. I want all the flexibility I could ever want in how it works and looks. By so doing, I’m learning a lot of new skills like CSS, but that’s perfectly okay with me. So, today the webpage is still a hack off of the tutorial I went through, but hopefully over the course of the next few weeks and months it’ll slowly transform into my own.

I guess the end goal of this is to wow potential employers still. But, let’s be honest, I’m sure enjoying the journey.