The first thing to do is to ask the System Administrator of the machine where you receive email whether the machine has a Web server (if you administer your own machine as a node on the Internet, you might consider installing a server---see below). If there is no server on that machine, you could ask your Administrator to install one, or get an account on a machine that has one. Usually, the University itself will maintain a computer that is dedicated as a server for its WWW pages. You will need to get `write privileges' to the directory containing the HTML documents for your department. You will also need to have some way of testing out your HTML documents; at the very least, you will need a text-only Web browsing program (such as lynx, for vt100 terminals). These tools will not only let you browse the Web, but also let you examine local HTML files that you are in the process of creating, to see how they will appear to others (this is what I mean by `testing them out').* Typically, you will find such a program on any machine that has a Web server. But, if you have your own computer, it is simpler to just find Web browsing software and install it, even if your machine is not wired to the Internet, for it makes testing a little easier than doing everything on a mainframe over a terminal connection.* Of course, if you want to include graphics and sound, a graphical browser such as Netscape, Internet Explorer, Safari, or OmniWeb is a must. In addition, you may need an assortment of `viewers' that can (create and) display graphics files such as GIF and JPG files (i.e., graphics), PDF files (Portable Document Format = Adobe Acrobat), sound files, video files, etc.
Next, acquire some basic guides to writing HTML. These documents exist on-line and you can download them or read them `on-the-fly' as you create your homepage (if you have a multi-windowing system, you can open up a copy of the HTML guide in one window, a text-editor in another window, and as you run into problems creating your HTML document in the text-editor, you can just select the window containing the HTML guide for help). You can get at the following URL:
Yahoo List of HTML Guides and Tutorials
Before you start creating your home page, you should browse the Web and examine other home pages, to get an idea of some possible ways of setting up your own. Most Web browsers have a function called `View Source', which will display the HTML sourcefile of the file currently under view. So, for example, if you point your Web browser to the URL of the Metaphysics Research Lab and receive the home page, use the View Source command to see what the HTML code looks like. As you inspect the HTML sourcecode of interesting-looking documents on the Web, you will get a sense of what HTML commands are required to format information for a Web browser.
Probably the most important command to learn is how to create links to other documents, both to your local files and to files elsewhere on the Web.* Let me digress for a moment to say something about the usefulness and power of the `distributed links' capability that is jointly embodied by HTML, HTTP servers, and Web browsers. An example makes this quite vivid. Suppose that one of the works of David Hume, which is in the public domain, is stored on-line on an Internet machine with a Web server in some distant university. When you start up your Web browser, it usually reads in the information stored in a `start.html' file. This is the start-up page for your browser. Many people just use the default. But one can customize the start-up page so that the Web browser presents whatever information you please when you fire it up. You can have it present links to philosophy resources on the Internet, and in particular, you can have a link directly to the work of David Hume. Simply by opening up your Web browser and selecting that entry on the start-up page, your Web browser will send a request to the Web server on the machine where the work is stored. The server will send back the file you requested, and your browser will either display it or, if it is in some special format, display it in an `external viewer'.* In fact, there doesn't have to be a Web server on the machine storing the work of Hume---there may simply be an anonymous FTP server. If that's the case, most Web browsers will automatically set up an anonymous FTP link, bring the document by FTP, and display it.* So one can set up a virtual library by putting in the right HTML code in the start-up page for your Web browser. Of course, this assumes that you can alter the start-up page on your browser; you cannot do this if you are logging onto a university computer to use Lynx, say, for then you may be stuck with the start-up page that your System Administrator has set as the default (however, the system may be configured so that users can create and save their own `bookmarks' or `hot list'; this is a kind of initialization file the lines in which are URLs of interesting Web sites the user has previously visited and tagged). But if your computer is a node on the Internet, and your Web browser's commands are broadcast directly to the Net, you can set up such a virtual library. I personally don't like to read documents of any great length on the computer; but such a virtual library would be useful if one is, say, searching for the occurrences of words in the works of a group of related philosophers, among other things. On my Web browser start-up page, I have links set to philosophy resources on the Internet, including a link to such documents as Philosophy in Cyberspace.* So learning how to create links in an HTML document is very important. You can use links to create `icon buttons' on your home page by inserting the command that tells a graphical Web browser to display a labeled icon, and you can make that icon a link to another document, such as `list-of-publications.html', in which your publications have been formatted in HTML (the items in your publications list can, in turn, be linked to abstracts). Be sure, however, that you do not set up any links to personal on-line copies of your publications, unless you own the copyright.