digifox wants to be a Mind Gangster. She needs the tools. So I started writing what was intended to be a fast and probably incomplete guide to what's around. Because it's all about the tools and what you can make them do.
But it's turning out to be bloody huge. So I'm splitting it into a couple of parts. This is all her fault. Blame her if you're bored shitless three paragraphs in.
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First, you're going to need a website. Digifox has one. You might not. The host I use is Globat. They're fast, they're professional, the basic package is terrific and they do special bargains all the time. And you can buy the hosting with PayPal.
You're going to need a PayPal account. It can be a pain in the arse to set up if you're outside the USA (like me), but take the time. It will have its uses. PayPal is the ghost economy: virtual money that people tend to cycle in and out of eBay or between friends. So eBay some of your old knickers and use the proceeds to buy a website.
Why do you need a website, when you've got a LiveJournal? Which you can also PayPal yourself a paid account from? Well, you might want to do that too. But LJ doesn't support some stuff that you might find useful. I was messing around with littlemissrisk's LJ earlier in the year, and the system strips out embedments, Flash and other tools.
So you've got a website. But you can't code HTML or CSS or whatever the fuck it is that the young people of today use to make their cybar h0m3p@g3s. So grab a template from Open Source Webpages, stick it on your site and fiddle with it. The best way to learn is to save a copy of the original, fiddle with a copy until it breaks, and then go back over it with the original until you see how to fix it.
All my HTML knowledge is 20th Century, and I can't handle the new stuff. My research-dump blog, diepunyhumans, is built on a blog system called Moveable Type. I looked at the installation package and shit my pants. (I ended up getting charitypomaybo to set it up for me.) Wordpress looks easier and more flexible, and I can tell you in advance that Globat has the system requirements, but if you don't know CSS you're buggered in terms of site design. (There's a bunch of Wordpress CSS templates here.) Drupal is open-source blog software, as is, I believe, bloxsom, but you're going to need a background in coding for these. Typepad is a lovely easy version of Moveable Type, but they host the blog themselves and charge for it. You can redirect your site URL to your Typepad page.
You can also implant your paid LJ account in another webpage, as I did on http://www.tristanrisk.com, just by copying a provided piece of code into your site.
You need somewhere to talk to people from, even if it's only to elaborate site updates. But don't be afraid of the cult of personality.
I personally would advise against anything more message-boardy than the LJ comments stream, if for no other reason than that it's a massive time-suck and time management is everything. If you're going to go ahead and set up your own forum anyway, there are a bunch of options. I think the nicest system is the Project Beehive setup, and it's the one I always recommend. There's also PostNuke and phpBB. You're going to need to be clever with the interweb stuff or have a handy webmonkey around to set these up, I should think.
(If you're going the LJ route, get the paid account and advertise your RSS feed, which will be http://yourusername.livejournal.com/rss. RSS is becoming more important, sadly. I don't like RSS because I like design and RSS is anti-design. However, people are finding ways to make RSS do interesting stuff, like delivering sound and vision files to your computer overnight. You can probably forget about ever making LJ do that, but, still, it's worth bearing in mind for the future. Here's a very useful article explaining RSS and RSS payloads in simple language what I like.)
(It also occurs to me that, if you're part of an artist collective, or maybe forming one, and you have access to a clever webmonkey, you could hotwire something like the Active system for group newsgathering, which is supposed to be both rich and simpler than blog-based groupwork. But anyway.)
Point is: you need your presence. It needs to be simple and effective and it needs to be able to project your voice. People always, always want to be able to make connections with the creator behind the art. Even if it's just a presence they can project upon. Don't be afraid to let people see you. Even mystery can work, so long as there's a single chink of light shone through on to you. Simply be present. Remember -- on the web, there's no such thing as real estate. Your online territory is just as big as Disney's or Sony's. It's simply that more people have heard of Disney and Sony. You don't need a billion people who recognise a brand. All you need is a few thousand people who love your work. And that is a lot easier than it sounds. Trust me.
You do trust me, right?