Wading Through the cPanel

When I started this class and bought some additional commodity web-hosting one of my projects was to redirect the content from a previous now-defunct mp3 blog/podcast — gentletyrants.com.  That site was an experiment for my 26 year old self who was obsessed with indie-music and hipsterdom and at the time mp3 blogging seemed to be where it was at.  Anyway, when I bought robnyland.com I wanted to move my hosting from GoDaddy over here to Bluehost so I enlisted the help of my friend Bryant, who happens to be a web developer over at Amazon.

In the course of that set up, Bryant took me through a lot of things, many of which I knew before.  Changing nameservers seemed easy enough, and creating new SQL databases wasn’t too bad, but then he started getting into blogging redirects and pulling out some crazy coding language that I didn’t even know existed.  We spent the next few days over trying to fix various problems on my blog via email — and for most of those days — I had no idea what was going on!  And I consider myself to be pretty savvy with media and such.

After listening to Gardner’s talk “No more digital facelifts”, I kept thinking about my own students and whether or not they would be able to navigate the world of commodity web hosting.  Sure the cpanel makes it easy for me to install my own blog and automatically set up a SQL database, but what happens when something goes wrong?  What happens when a student wants to create a redirect?  I don’t think that my students would be able to wade through all of that information.

My student population tends to take the easiest path given — and maybe that is true of all students these day (or maybe I am just a pessimist).  But if I gave this same requirement to my students, I am afraid that there wouldn’t be a lot of exploration.  There would be a simplescript installation of a wordpress blog and my students would be content with that.  In the past I have given students an assignment to keep a blog through tumblr during the quarter, and while I want to think that this is an opportunity for my students to explore their digital identity most of the time I find my students simply content to leave their blog with the default blue tumblr theme — with the blog title of “Untitled”, and once the class ends they no longer update those blogs and the blogs drift off into the blog graveyard, filled with ambitious grandmothers and viagra spam blogs.

So I guess my question is, how can we change this attitude?  Do we need to start earlier?  Do we need to begin teaching our students css and html and other scripting languages earlier on.  Or is it something that I need to do?  Do I need to have more faith in my students abilities to explore and construct their own digital identity?  Thoughts?  Suggestions?