Building a Community instead of a Company

I tend to think that language and phrasing is a powerful indicator of priorities. The web hosting industry is filled with smoke and mirrors meant to obfuscate and confuse by way of jargon, smoke, and mirror. “No hidden fees” can easily appear next to a feature list that has at least 3 asterisks to clarify what “Unlimited” and “Optimized” might actually mean to your host. Jim has talked about what we’re doing with web hosting and the Domain of One’s Own project with a reference to Jon Udell as trailing edge technologies. Rather than come up with trendy names like “Cloud-based Grid Resources” we stick to the basics and do our best to make sure you understand what comes in the box. The fact is this stuff isn’t new or innovative, but we’re pushing on it because we believe that it was and remains a powerful way to build on the web. Giving you a toolbox might be intimidating at first and we’re constantly pushing on how to make that accessible, but the alternative world of glossy additional layers between you and the tools you use to build your identity in these spaces is not one we want to inhabit.

One great example of language choice in that regard is how I refer to our users. Users. Even as I type that I can’t stand the term. It feels completely faceless, and yet I’m lucky enough to know so many of the faces of fine folks that choose to host with us and I meet more every day. So you’ll often see me refer to Reclaim Hosting as a community rather than just users or a company. Like any community it probably has more work to be done in building interactions with each other, but I think it’s important to know you’re not in this alone and you’re not just a faceless user to a company with a business that forces you to figure it out yourself or pay exorbitant support costs to get help.

When I get the chance to help you fix a problem on your site or answer a question about what you’re working on it’s also an opportunity for me to learn a bit more about you and what you’re doing. You’re a high school Psychology teacher that used to play with Frontpage but hasn’t tried building a site in years. You’re a historian that wants to explore the deep seas of what it means to be a digital scholar and perhaps play with some of those tools you keep hearing about at AHA. You’re a student in the journalism program at your college discovering how to use the web to market yourself and perhaps rethink online publishing in the process. I don’t just refuse the stale business terms on principle, I refuse them because how can I work with an awesome community of educators, students, and real people like you and call it anything else? It’s a privilege to play a part in helping advance our corner of the web together and rest assured that as long as you’re with Reclaim you’ll always have support both from us and from each other to help you when you need it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Scalar joins the Reclaim Installer Party

We’re super excited to announce that Scalar is now available to all Reclaim Hosting users and institutional partners via our automated installer in cPanel! Scalar is a free, open source authoring and publishing platform that’s designed to make it easy for authors to write long-form, born-digital scholarship online. Scalar enables users to assemble media from multiple sources and juxtapose them with their own writing in a variety of ways, with minimal technical expertise required. Scalar joins Omeka and Known in the family of application installers developed by Reclaim Hosting. We’re committed to making educational applications available in open and accessible ways to larger communities and the addition of Scalar underscores this commitment. The development of this installer wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Craig Dietrich and the rest of the group at USC. Over the coming weeks we’re looking forward to working with them to help make the experience of publishing in your own domain with Scalar even better.

Announcing Open Office Hours

Starting this week we’ll be having open office hours at Reclaim Hosting headquarters (ok, it’s the slightly disheveled office in my home, dream with me). This will happen this Thursday at 11AM EST and we hope to continue doing these every other week depending on demand. Open office hours are a chance for you to get any question big or small answered in person. Maybe you have a question about how to use WordPress or Omeka for some other platform on Reclaim in your class. Maybe something isn’t working right but you haven’t gotten around to putting in a support ticket. I’ll be sharing tips and tricks that have come up for folks often over the past few weeks, some things we’re working on as well. So join us this Thursday! We’ll keep a schedule at with links to the event page and an embedded view of the livestream in case you’d like to watch along but don’t want to participate.

Myths of the Web Hosting Industry: 24/7 Support

If you’ve been with us for any length of time you’ll start to recognize that we do things a little differently around here. It’s not just that Reclaim Hosting “feels” like a different kind of company, in fact it becomes pretty obvious when comparing with our services and features with others. And that’s not to imply that we come out on top with every feature! (I’d be surprised if we did, we’re a year and a half old with zero investors growing this community in a much different way). I’ve avoided the “comparison chart” complex for awhile although I think it could be useful to see how we shape up to others and I’ll put something like that together soon. But an interaction I had today with a customer prompted me to start writing about some of the more common features of other web hosting providers that you think you want, and yet you don’t because they’re a myth. Let’s talk about “24/7 support”.

I helped a customer today with their site that had been dealing with error messages for a month. It shocked me someone would put up with issues for a month without sending me an email or anything so I questioned why he waited so long and begged him not to do so in the future (we resolved the issue in 20 minutes!). His response was this:

The reason I didn’t contact you so far, to be honest, is because I guess I am not used to this kind of quick and awesome response! I have my personal site with [company name that totally doesn’t rhyme with SnowCaddy removed]….when I call the company directly, their employees only sound like they are trained to replace problem-solving with fake courtesy (“I apologize” is the most common line) from a rule book 🙂 Other companies were even worse in my previous experiences.

You see, 24/7 support is a bit like a 24/7 drive through McDonalds. Yes, you can eat at 3 in the morning, if you’re willing to order from a menu of about 5 different foods that have all likely been sitting way too long under a heater. I’ve even had companies that promised 24/7 support and then after hours I very clearly got nothing more than an automated “Thanks for contacting us, we’ll reply shortly” response that went hours without response. Funny how those 24 hours quickly start to look like normal business hours with a combination of automation or outsourced undertrained support personnel the rest of the time. You deserve better, we all do. Here’s a screenshot of a report from a support product you may have noticed us using in the past month that helps us respond in a more casual form than a ticketing system:

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 7.27.35 PM


The myth of 24/7 support is that it’s rarely 24/7 and quite often an extremely sub-par form of “support”. Yet with Reclaim Hosting what you get is so much better. Instead of promises of getting “some kind of response” any hour of the day, those numbers speak for themselves. Particularly because in almost all cases you’re not just getting a random support technician who know’s nothing about your account, you’re talking to me, the same guy that keeps the servers humming and helps you think through that choice of plugins for the course you’re teaching. With Reclaim Hosting you get fast, personalized, support from a real person who isn’t going to throw a canned set of responses back at you.

Ready to stop struggling on your own and get real help building a presence on the web? Join us and let’s continue to build something that defies the norms of this broken industry together.