Student Web site publishing on the rise

Sean McCoy

While the lack of lines in Fraser Hall during registration is the most visible result of widespread Internet use, University students are also creating a variety of their own World Wide Web sites.
For $10, students or staff members can upgrade their e-mail accounts to publish a Web site that could potentially reach thousands of people. More than 4,000 people have purchased this ability to create a Web site. The exact number of Web sites created by University students, staff and faculty is unavailable.
A search of University sites could turn up such novel entries as “Buddy the Gourd,” “Kris’s Court,” “Sings What?” “Eggs” and “Skydiving.” A disclaimer saying the content is not the opinion of the University appears on many Web sites — unless the creator has deleted it.
“Buddy the Gourd has a secret desire to be more popular than Mickey the Mouse,” reads the scrolling message at the bottom of the Web site dedicated to Buddy, a gourd with a green bottom and orange yellow top.
Further down the page is a song about a woman having her laundry stolen.
Another site shows a student’s portfolio of computer-generated three-dimensional insects.
One home page sums up the sentiment of most Web sites generated by University students: “This is something about me,” reads “Kris’s Court.”
Many students publish sites to tell the world about themselves.
“When I created my Web page in ’93 or ’94, it was a way to say ‘Here’s who I am,'” said Chris Bongaarts, a junior applications programmer for Academic and Distributed Computing Services. “It was an extrapolation of institutions and departments telling about themselves.”
However, University President Mark Yudof said students’ Web sites, which usually focus on their interests, also help them gain valuable experience they can bring into the work place.
“I have heard of agencies saying that they do not only want you to build an account, but also maintain a Web site,” Yudof said.
Jorge Gomez, a junior in the College of Human Ecology who also edits the online magazine “Skeptic Industries,” which focuses on in-line skating, agrees.
“I think doing your own Web site gives you experience,” Gomez said. “You learn a lot and also get your name out there.”
Gomez hopes to someday make a living off his online magazine.
“We are getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “Right now we are the second largest in-line magazine on the Web.” Since December, the site has gotten about 10,000 hits.
Gomez said although he would like to publish a paper version of the magazine to make it accessible to more people, the “cash thing” makes it impossible.
“We can all be published,” said Al Tims, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “It is going to have a huge impact on opportunities for our students.”
Bongaart said critical thinking skills have become more and more important with the propagation of Web sites. “You can’t take them all at face value,” he added.
The ability to publish magazines on the Web also affects classes. During the last week of classes, a magazine production class put the finishing touches on the first online magazine produced by a class.
The Web site, called “Resonance,” will look into Minnesota music and local bands.
Although no directory to University Web sites exists, it’s possible to find sites that reside in University storage space by using a search engine like Netscape and typing ~www.tc.umn.edu/~~. An advanced search combining the URL with a subject can dig up more specific subjects.