Where Reclaim’s Going

More than a year ago the idea of “reclaiming the web” started to congeal for me as a result of the MIT Hackathon I attended. It’s there where Audrey Watters and Kin Lane plugged me into the future of the web. During that two day stint we imagined a project called Reclaim Your Domain that we’ve been working on in those rare few available moments since. Professionally, reclaiming is all about trying to educate people about how the web works and empower then to take control of their small piece of it. Politically it’s about consciously resisting the increasing centralization of everything to a few online corporate conglomerates. I believe the one makes the other possible.

Reclaim has been the intellectual basis of much of the work I’ve been part of since, and even prior, it just didn’t have that title yet. UMW went live with Domain of One’s Own this past Fall, and that’s a project that has empowering students, staff, and faculty to interrogate how the web works built into its DNA. A year ago Tim Owens and I started Reclaim Hosting, and that has been a means of providing an infrastructure for folks to experiment with managing their space on the open web for a pittance with unparalled support. As Audrey so brilliantly frames it, “The Future of Ed-Tech is a Reclamation Project.” Her willed optimimism is the hallmark of generous and generative humanity and reinforces for me that this is my future as well.


But the cool part of all this that I am starting to realize is that we’re not alone in the push to reclaim. Just the other day Doug Belshaw started drawing the contours of this broader movement in his post on the DML Hub titled “Reclaiming the Web for the Next Generation.” He connects the recent global realizations that  a) we’re all being surveilled online by at least the NSA, but probably many, mnay more agencies; b) our personal data is the currency for the predominant “free” online business models, and privacy is the cost; and c) we can’t solve this alone, we need to start re-thinking our relationship to the web as a connected culture. This post really starts to frame why reclaiming one’s sense of their own domain (to verbally mashup the work I’m part of) has far broader implications than an initaitive at UMW or a few hippies trying to explain web hosting.

In fact, on the same day I saw Belshaw’s post, I also read Jon Udell’s “Mapping the Decentralization Movement”, which is another articulation of the mobilization, as Udell notes, to “re-decentralize” the web. The project Udell is currently work on, Thali, is an experiment to see what a truly peer-to-peer web might look like. But he notes it is just one of many projects like this. He links to a long list of people and projects that are trying to make this alternative web a reality, and it’s a great palce to start getting sense of what may prove to be a broader cultural movement away from the centralization of the web.

In fact, UMW’s DTLT recently talked with Ben Werdmuller and Erin Jo Richey who are leading up Known—one of the projects on that list—about how their software might enable our community to publish to a variety of different services without ever having to login to them. A personal hub for pushing content to these other services, while at the same time claiming the work you are creating locally and decided where you want to share and how. Tim Owens has been experimenting with this software, and I think he may already have it as one-click install for the folks on both UMW’s Domain of One’s Own and Reclaim Hosting.

And that, for me, is where Reclaim Hosting is going. We want to support as many people as  possible explore as many of these applications that enable them to more easily manage and control their piece of the web. We’ll be working our way through the alterative web community’s applications and see if we can make them part of the Reclaim Hosting application universe. Even better, we hope to be contributing to at least one more as part of the Reclaim Your Domain project, but more on that anon.  And start addressing all those applications that can’t run in a LAMP environment, we’re currently working on helping people install and manage  applications that run on a particular set of dependencies in a virtualized environment. We’ll be making a push to explore machine images for a variety of applications and document how to get them working. But more importantly, we’re working on a rollout of the community-focused face of Reclaim Hosting that will provide a space to share the work happening by interersted parties from across the Reclaim universe.

Reclaim Hosting

To this end, as you might have surmised, Reclaim Hosting is not a pilot anymore. We’re bonafide! We plan on sticking around to support reclaimers for a long time. We just redesigned the siteintegrated CPanel into the client area, and updated our pricing model. Rolling out the next stage of Reclaim Hosting is exciting because it truly feels we are part of a broader movement to help people start thinking about the importance of re-decentralizing the web. And I remain convinced the best way at this is to start by taking control of your own little piece of it.

cPanel Access in the Client Area

If I had to pin down the single greatest feature request in the past year that we’ve heard from clients it comes back to password management. Before today you had one password to sign up, another to login to cPanel, and then more passwords when you installed applications. We hear you loud and clear and today I’m pleased to announce that alongside the full redesign of the client area we’ve found a way to make the cPanel interface for your site accessible directly from there, no password required! Users can simply log in and they’ll find a menu item for cPanel available to them in the navigation area. For users with more than one hosting account, the menu item will convert to a dropdown menu so you have access to every cPanel area you’re a user on from one screen.

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This change is certainly a welcome one but comes with a small caveat for existing users. The interface relies on our billing system keeping your cPanel password in sync. This means if you’ve changed your password directly in cPanel there’s one small step you need to take to get them back in sync. Go to the account listing page in the client area of Reclaim Hosting and click on View Details for your account. Then click the Change Password tab and update your cPanel password here. This will ensure the system stays in sync. We’ve disabled the ability to reset passwords directly in cPanel for this reason and password changes should happen right in the client area.

We hope this will make a huge difference for customers who want quick and easy access to dive into cPanel and start building out there space. If you have other ideas for features you’d like to see us build, leave them in the comments below or shoot us a message!

Updates to our Pricing Model

As many of you know, when we began Reclaim Hosting last summer we made the decision to run as a pilot for the first year offering domains at cost and charging nothing for hosting. We wanted to ensure this was both a service that people wanted to see as well as something that we were confident would serve a large community. The response was overwhelming with over 1,500 people joining us and calling Reclaim Hosting home. In the past year we’ve had a variety of challenges from building infrastructure to finding what the best way to build support and community could be. With the first year behind us, both Jim and I couldn’t be more pleased with where we are and we have a ton of ideas for the future.

Which brings us back to pricing. We know we can’t sustain this service long term for free, and the absolute last thing we’d ever want to do is sell out to a larger corporation to attempt to subsidize the cost in a way that doesn’t fit with our ideals. We firmly believe the best things on the web are worth paying for. But we wanted to continue to make it extremely affordable for folks who are just getting started and need a low-risk way of experimenting in these new spaces. So we’ve updated our pricing in a way that we believe is fair and affordable. Starting today, Reclaim Hosting accounts will be $25/year and continue to include a free domain registration as part of that package. For our users that are looking to upgrade to gain more space or add additional domains, we’re offering a $45 package that will support multiple domains and greater storage (existing users can upgrade their account in the client area). We also have a package for institutions that are serving large student bodies and spell some of those details out on our pricing page as well. If you’re interested in that get in touch!

We know raising prices sucks. We’ve tried to be as open about the pilot phase of Reclaim Hosting as we could and be assured this is a one-time adjustment that will ensure we’re around for years to come. Thanks for being a part of this great adventure and we look forward to continuing to serve you and build out some amazing opportunities for you and your schools in the next few months and years!

Brand New Design

Reclaim Hosting got a fresh coat of paint today with a full site redesign including the client area. When we began Reclaim Hosting last summer our priority was getting the infrastructure up and running. With over 1,500 users after 1 year I can confidently say it has been (and continues to be) a success in that regard. But the old site was always a quick and dirty thing, published practically overnight to frame the service. As we prepare to take Reclaim Hosting into the next phase of its infancy it was time for something more clean and professional. The new site design sports a fully responsive design that views well on mobile and tablets as well as desktops. As time goes on we’ll be working out ways to feature the community that has begun to build around the Reclaim movement as well.

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In addition to the site redesign we’ve also completely overhauled the client area interface. Accessible directly from the main site, you’ll find all of your information easily accessible with just a few clicks. We’ve even added the ability to access cPanel directly from your client area without having to know the password (probably our #1 feature request!), but more on that in another post. The client area is also responsive so if you need to login while you’re on your phone or tablet you’ll find the same familiar interface formatted for your screen here.

We’re excited to enter this new phase of development for Reclaim Hosting. Many have asked what the future of the service was when we began last year with our pilot and the response from the community reinforces that there’s nothing we’d rather be doing than continuing to build out a company that supports you at every step. Whether you’re a student getting their first blog up and running or a seasoned faculty member looking to build a digital project, we believe you’ll find no better place to do it than right here. If there’s anything we can do to help you, don’t hesitate to let us know!

Reclaiming Innovation

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Click image to go to article

Yesterday the online version of the EDUCAUSE Review article Brian Lamb and I co-authored went live on the web. I’m really blown away by how much time and energy the good folks at EDUCAUSE Review spent on the web presentation. It looks amazing, and I have to acknowledge right up front that ER editor, Teddy Diggs, was nothing short of amazing throughout the entire process. I had a lot of fun writing this article, and it’s really rewarding to see it both online and in print. It represents yet another proud moment within an  on-going intellectuall (and degenerate) collaboration I’ve had with Brian for going on eight years.

More selfishly, this article helped me both crystallize and abstract a series of ideas around Domain of One’s Own that needed to be generalized beyond UMW. Originally the idea behind this article was to write a piece about Domain of One’s Own touting its awesomeness (and it is!). But when I started talking  it over with Brian it quickly became apparent that a broader rumination on the state of innovation and technology in higher education would get at some of the deeper underlying issues that Domain of One’s Own addresses. What exactly do we mean when we say innovation? What is this disruption we keep talking about? What is the state of innovation in higher ed when it comes to IT infrastructure? How have we fared in terms of providing spaces for our intellectual communiities to explore the possibilities of the the radical “disruptor” know as the web? Is empowerment a part of innovation?

The article is an attempt to answer just those questions, and I think it helped me re-focus some of the reasons why I think Domain of One’s Own, and the Reclaim Your Domain movement more generally, remains my chosen future. The online piece provides a series of extras, such as clips of a conversation between Brian and I embedded in the article about the process. Also, there are a series of examples of schools like UMW, UBC, and various CUNY colleges that are enacting the values at the heart of building a technological infrastructure for teaching and learning around people. In addition, for the online version I spent many hours alongside Andy Rush interviewing staff, faculty, and students at UMW to explain what exactly Domain of One’s Own means to our campus. The following 12 minute video, embedded below, is the result of that exploration.

And if that’s not enough, Brian and Jon Fulton were, as luck would have it, able to sit down with both Audrey Watters and Kin Lane at Thompson River University to discuss what exactly this whole “reclaim” thing is all about. I think they both lay out a brilliant frame for what this might mean on a personal level.

I’d like to think their vision is complemented by Domain of One’s Own at UMW, suggesting that such an ethos can work on several levels: personal, professional, institutional, etc. There’s a spectrum to reclaim. It’s not a reaction; it’s a proactive move to start demanding we have more control over who we are in cyberspace. For UMW, reclaim is about factoring the importance of taking ownership of your information into the work you do not only as a student, but as a citizen.

Brian and I fashioned this piece as a re-visiting of the “Nevermind the EDUPUNKs” article we wrote for EDUCAUSE Review in 2010. Four years on I remain confident that empowering individuals to reclaim their work online is not just an idea, but an infrastructure that folks can and will actually work towards impelementing. If we think that teaching and learning in the 21st century needs to deeply interrogate the role of the web in education, and that’s becoming readily apparent, then I can’t imagine how the vision of the student, faculty, and staff member as various nodes within a broader learning network framed by the course or the unviersity or the world at lerge can’t be anything but imminent. Here’s to hoping.