Since late July, early August I have been focusing a lot more of my time on wrapping my head around the Reclaim Hosting server infrastructure, as well as providing support to folks using it. It’s been a welcome deviation from the career trajectory I’ve been on for the last ten years. You see, when you get into edtech in higher ed, often you have the starting position of something like instructional technologist, learning designer, media specialist, etc. You can then move on to something like coordinator, manager, assistant director, or director. In some instances, and with the right credentials, there may even be more—some kind of assistant VP or associate provost gig. But in the end, it’s all pretty much middle management admin hell after instructional technologist—the only truly pure job. And, as you are pushed along this pre-defined career track, it’s easy to move further and further away from the actual work and deeper and deeper into a culture of meetings, administrative trivia, and managing others. Don’t get me wrong, some folks like this stuff and are good at it, but that’s only because they have been institutionally lobotomized. Read more
Archive for month: February, 2016
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.
Twice over the last two days I have gotten requests to change the domain of a web hosting account in cPanel. It’s enough steps that it’s not simple to tell someone how to do, and the fact is only server admins can do it. You need access to the Web Hosting Manager (WHM-the host of the hosts) interface to do it, so this tutorial is really for folks at various institutions (more than 30 now!) running their own Domain of One’s Own package, as well as anyone who happens upon it. Welcome!
For the purposes of this tutorial you will need access to WHM (the management console for a cPanel web hosting server) and WHMCS (the client and billing management system that sits on top of cPanel).
You can make the below changes in WHM or WHMCS first, the order you choose to do it will not effect the outcome.
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
Reclaim uses Intercom’s customer support feature. Its pretty great, I think. Users can send their questions firstname.lastname@example.org, or within the app in their Client Area. All messages on our end come through the same space for easy access.
And because you can easily tag and assign other support members to tickets, this really cuts down on overlapping as well.
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.
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
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.
^Front end with the user.
^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.
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:
Upon clicking User Manager, this is what you’ll see:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
I am publicly taking all complaints about @reclaimhosting‘s support on Twitter today. I dare you! 🙂
— Jim Groom (@jimgroom) February 7, 2016
And the same goes for the comments of this blog. #NOBODY!
I have a migrated a couple of Known installations at Reclaim Hosting over the last week or so. While doing them I ran into some issues and want there to be some documentation for us at Reclaim—and beyond—in the event other folks have similar problems. Anyway, the hosted versions of Known provide tools for exporting and importing your application to an XML file similar to the WordPress exporter. That said, it wasn’t working for me. I was trying to use the WP importer Known provides to import the export from Known to no avail.
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.