Reclaim Records

Reclaim Records

The idea of Reclaim Hosting as a kind of independent record label for ed-tech is an idea I’ve been playing with since a talk at Davidson College more than a year ago. This past fall Adam Croom and I explored it further in relationship to Indie Ed-Tech as a movement, which was punctuated by Audrey Watters epic, aspirational post on Indie Ed-Tech in December. About the same time I was talking with Bryan Mathers about using the logo he designed for us, which I love.
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This is why we can’t have nice things in Virginia EdTech

During my time at OpenVA one of the things I really wanted to see happen was various institutions around the state working together to share technical infrastructure. How could we think about scaling something like Domain of One’s Own for the VCCS? -or share that model with Virginia Tech or Northern Virginia Community College? Even beyond that, how could we rethink sharing machine images of various tools and applications these schools currently use to give all Virginia schools greater access to a diversity of educational technologies. A clearing house for educational technologies that might be inspired by and built on the model of something like AWS. I moved on from OpenVA and UMW,  but it was pretty clear this was never really going to come to fruition in Virginia for a few reasons: Continue reading "This is why we can’t have nice things in Virginia EdTech"

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

Make sure to check out the previous applications that have been featured:
 Asana, Evernote & Slack.

In regards to continuing the ‘Featured Applications’ series on this blog, I wanted to briefly highlight one of the backbones of Reclaim Hosting: Intercom.

We say all the time that we are our customers– that Reclaim Hosting would be nothing without the users that take us on and support our vision for web hosting. So we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to support them in return. Having top-notch customer support is one of our biggest priorities, and we couldn’t be as rock solid as we are without the help of Intercom, our support interface.

Intercom describes themselves on their website as “the one place for every team in the Internet business to communicate with customers”. Truth. They offer a variety of ways that you can use Intercom, too: Live Chat, Marketing Automation, Customer Feedback and Customer Support.

HOW RECLAIM HOSTING USES INTERCOM

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

Reclaim uses Intercom’s customer support feature. Its pretty great, I think. Users can send their questions tosupport@reclaimhosting.com, or within the app in their Client Area. All messages on our end come through the same space for easy access.

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

This means no repetitively checking multiple emails or message chains, or overlapping with other Reclaim support members.

And because you can easily tag and assign other support members to tickets, this really cuts down on overlapping as well.

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

At a glance in the Intercom dashboard, I can easily see how many conversations are open, when we last got a response from the user, and who on our end is responsible for replying to them. And because everything is out in the open (as opposed to private email chains, for example) we can all be in the know about a user’s current problem.

Perfect example: I’ll start my day with support at 10am. Tim, Jim or Joe may have began a conversation with a user previous to my arrival- if they temporarily log off for a meeting or other engagement, I’m able to step in. The user doesn’t have to wait on a response.

 

The top menu bar of the Intercom dashboard shows all instances of conversations possible: which conversations are assigned to who, which ones are unassigned and how many conversations are open in total.

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

The right-hand sidebar of the Intercom dashboard rocks as well. If I click on TW’s conversation, for example, I’m able to see a bunch of useful information about TW to the right- institution or location, email, browser, IP address, etc.

This makes things really simple when a user reaches out for help. Almost always the user can realize when there’s a problem, but often they don’t know the ‘what’ or the ‘why’ of the problem. So having a dashboard that automatically gives us server/account information is critical. It points us in the right direction to find the fix.

KEEP TRACK OF TAGS

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

Above the menu bar already mentioned, there’s a notification icon that keeps track of any tags you might’ve missed. There’s been many a time where I’ll log off for the day, and then sign in to Intercom the next day to find a few notifications from my co-workers saying “heads up, here’s another way to do this,” or something to that extent.

I’m constantly still learning and adding to my repertoire for how to handle unique support requests. So even though conversations may be long closed, I’m able to open them up and learn something new that I might have missed otherwise.

SPEAKING OF TAGS…

By far, my favorite Intercom feature is being able to have real-time brainstorming conversations with my co-workers on the same conversation chain that I’m having with a Reclaim user.

With each ticket that comes through, I have the option of replying directly to the user on the front end, or making an internal note that only support members see.

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

^Front end with the user.

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

^Back end with support members.

All support members can chat behind the scenes like this on a single ticket. We can work through problems together, or ask for help when we need it.

For more info about Intercom, check out their blog.

New User Manager in cPanel

We get questions occasionally from Reclaim Hosting users that are interested in adding a sub-user to their cPanel account. Multi-user cPanel access would be awesome, but unfortunately that’s something that we don’t have yet. However, we now have reason to believe that it’s on the way.

cPanel just released a new theme (for the first time since 2007) called Paper Lantern, and Reclaim Hosting has slowly begun rolling it out to users. One of Reclaim’s favorite changes that comes with this new theme is the User Manager.

While the User Manager isn’t exactly multi-user cPanel access, it lays the foundation for it. And as a bonus: it’s also a nice way to easily create a user with access to multiple items at once. Let’s take a look-

You have two ways of getting to your User Manager within cPanel:

On your left hand side bar (quickest option& photo at the top) or by scrolling to the bottom of your cPanel and looking in the Preferences category:

New User Manager in cPanel

Upon clicking User Manager, this is what you’ll see:

New User Manager in cPanel

Note the settings wheels next to the search bar that allow you to refine your search, as well as the “Add User” button to the left.

Here you have access to an array of options from a single screen. On top of quickly creating and managing user accounts, you can now also create and maintain email, FTP and Web Disk accounts.

New User Manager in cPanel

The User Manager also allows you to link separate user accounts (email, FTP, Web Disks) that share the same username, so users can make use of the new Unified login system. Basically, this just means that End users now have to remember one set of credentials as opposed to different sets for every account.

New User Manager in cPanel

And my personal favorite– you can see which users have access to what with a quick glance to the right-hand side of the page.

Small Systems Integration

I’m not sure exactly what I mean by this. In fact, that very idea has me excited as a move towards see more small things happen. Small things is a theme I will be exploring this Spring, it resulted from a great discussion with the organizers of the AMICAL conference this year in Rome I’ll be speaking at. The focus will be on small things, a sense of post-MOOC taking stock of the valence of terms like massive/local, big/small (data), and  corporate/indie, the shape of the talk is not entirely clear to me though but I am taking Calvin Johnson’s advice and exploring E.F. Schumacher‘s book Small is Beautiful which posits the idea of Appropriate Technology. I’m excited by this talk, and I still have months to prepare. It really make s a huge difference when conference organizers take an hour of their time and talk to you about their community, their needs, and the general sense of focus and interest. I’m absolutely certain this talk will be the better for it.

And while the idea of small is bouncing around in my mind Tim Owens and I get on call with Jon Udell. One of the things he is thinking through right now is small systems integration. In particular as product manager for Hypothesis, how did Reclaim integrate web hosting into a universities identity management systems. Fact is, our work with providing universities a seamless, integrated service for web hosting on their campus is pretty awesome.  We integrate with several authentication systems used at various universities: CAS, Shibboleth, Active Directory, LDAP, and we joined InCommon, a federated ID management consortium through Internet2, to make the Shibboleth that much more seamless.

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A New Low for Reclaim

Support for January 2016

In the last 4 weeks we managed to reduce our first response time for new tickets yet another minute. It’s only gonna get harder to do from here on out. I’ve been writing about our support a bit because I have the numbers, and I’m particularly proud of the average time for the last 4 weeks because the beginning of the spring semester is one of our busiest times of the years. We’ve been on our A-game. As I joked on Twitter earlier, I’m taking all complaints about our support on Twitter…

And the same goes for the comments of this blog. #NOBODY!

Reclaim Your Hypothesis

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I wanted to point folks to Jeremy Dean’s excellent post “An Annotated Domain of One’s Own” that details getting up and  running with the web annotation tool Hypothesis on a  self-hosted WordPress site. Now I’ll admit it, it didn’t hurt that Jeremy highlighted the awesomeness of Reclaim Hosting in his post, but regardless of that he provides an excellent conceptual framing of why managing your own domain is important as well as hands-on, practical how-to for getting up and running with Hypothesis using WordPress.

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Anatomy of an Application in Sandstorm

Yesterday I wrote about getting your own Sandstorm server up and running, and today I wanted to follow-up with some specifics about applications in Sandstorm. This should be a fairly short post because it’s really easy, but I’m really not into the whole brevity thing. As I mentioned yesterday, Sandstorm’s Application Market is really impressive and they have done an amazing job of integrating it into the server to make exploring and installing apps painless.

When you are in the Sandstorm dashboard you will see two areas: Apps and Grains.

Anatomy of an Application in Sandstorm

Apps are just that, applications you can or have used. SO, for example, this is what the apps area looks like in my Sandbox dashboard.

Anatomy of an Application in Sandstorm

A link to the App Market to install applications as well as those I have used, in this case Ghost, Hacker CMS, and WordPress. The other area of the dashboard is the section called Grains.

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Caught in the Sandstorm

I have been looking on with wonder at the work Grant Potter and Brian Lamb have done with BC’s Open Ed Tech. In particular, their initiative designed to provide British Columbia’s post-secondary institutions the means to easily install and explore a range of open source applications using Sandstorm.io. What’s nice about Sandstorm is it provides access to a number of open source applications that don’t run on a commodity hosting LAMP stack, such as the blogging software Ghost, the collaborative text editor Etherpad, computational environments like the iPython Notebook, and Git Hosting with GitLab. And that’s just a few of the over 50 applications Sandstorm supports out of the box, and if you you have an application you want to add that’s also possible.

Sandtorm.io's App Market
Sandtorm.io’s App Market

What struck me on this run through Sandstorm (Tim turned me onto it over a year ago) was the application market. It contains a number of applications folks have asked us about hosting through Reclaim. Georgetown University was interested in the possibility of hosting iPython Notebooks on their dedicated Reclaim server, and the great Tony Hirst as been exploring how to host them for a while now. More recently, Shawn Graham at Carleton University was asking me about the possibility of hosting GitLab, which was new to me, and lo and behold that is a featured app on Sandstorm.

So, when the outlaw Tommy Woodward asked if Reclaim Hosting could spin-up a Sandstorm server for VCU’s ALT Lab, I jumped at the chance. I have to hand it to the folks at Sandstorm, they made the process of setting up your own server dead simple. I’ll document my process below, but their documentation is pretty awesome.
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