Learning New Content Management Systems

When I started at Reclaim I realized that I needed to learn some more open-source web platforms than I thought. At Mary Washington, I mainly work with students on WordPress, which makes up the majority of the domains. That’s a different story at Reclaim.  There are multiple applications that access the file manager (which is like the file manager on your computer). I’ve had a couple of tickets where clients needed help with two applications that have access to the file manager: Omeka and Drupal. So I decided I would set up my own subdomains for each application and learn as much as I could. I figured this would help me more when clients need support on those applications.


Drupal is a content management system similar to WordPress. The Interface looks very similar to how you would navigate WordPress, and even add content. But it definitely is not WordPress. Drupal looks a little rudimentary to WordPress but it gets the job done. I spent some time adding test content, pages, themes, and plugins as well. Drupal mainly operates through the interface itself so it does not use the file manager but it’s still very useful to learn since people still use the platform to create content.

Problems I ran into: I struggled when trying to install some themes. There is a specific file type you need to use when installing the specific one I found.  Drupal’s main website has tons of themes and I found it hard to pick just one. When it was time to install the theme I had to download the file to my computer then upload it to my Drupal install. Pro Tip: Don’t use the .zip form of the theme, use the .tar.gz part of the file. That’s where I hit a road block. For a while, I wasn’t able to install a theme and I couldn’t figure out why. Now it really seems obvious that I needed to use that specific file type, but now I know.



Omeka is another content management platform where you can create posts for specific items to document them. The items can range from specific historical artifacts to pieces of artwork, and really any item you’d like to document. At Mary Washington, the history department utilizes this tool more than any other department. Omeka mainly uses their interface to create their own content through the back end of that specific install. But Omeka uses the file manager to install and manage themes and plugins. This is a little different than expected but it was very easy to get the hang of. Reclaim has a great documentation website where I was able to look at how to add themes and plugins through the file manager.  I had one support ticket where she needed help with the file manager. After looking into how to use the file manager it takes just a little bit to get used to but it’s useful to have the themes and plugins held in a separate area on the file manager. Using Omeka is very intuitive, the interface lays out all of the options you will need when posting an item.  When you customize the space as well Omeka gives you all the options for customizing the theme around all in one page.


All in all both applications are good options for content management. But if it were up to me, I’d definitely recommend using WordPress over anything else 😀

Sharing the Domains Documentation Love

I wanted to make sure Adam Croom gets the appropriate love for helping several schools get up and running with Domains documentation over the last several months. More than a few folks have inquired if we had any recommendations for solid documentation, and it is hard to compete with the new and improved OU Create docs.* Once upon a time, before the Smallest Federated Wiki whisked Mike Caulfield away, we had an idea for federated documentation using DokuWiki, but that never came to be. There was some early momentum to prevent folks from reproducing the documentation wheel—but time, energy, focus, and squirrels got in the way.

More recently a few schools asked us if the could reproduce Oklahoma’s documentation and then customize it for their school, and it turned out that Adam had already done this for Middlebury’s Middcreate. So, he was kind enough to not only help out a few schools by porting over OU Create’s documentation site whole hog, but even wrote up a tutorial on how to do it.

Re-visiting how we re-use and remix documentation resources across schools running Domain of One’s Own will most definitely be on the Domains 17 conference agenda.  I think this is something we need to revisit in order to make this much less arduous. Thanks again Adam, you rule.

David Morgen did some amazing work with Emory’s documentation early and that was the inspiration to try and figure out how to easily share work between schools that wanted to share and re-user Domains documentation.

Continuing on the Learning Curve

These past two weeks have flown by! I’ve just completed week three at Reclaim Hosting and I have to say it’s been really enjoyable. Things on support tend to be a little slow while I’m working which is good and bad. Good because that means things are running smoothly for clients but also bad because that means I don’t have much to do! I’m still in the learning phase for sure but I’m getting the hang of things. This week I was able to solve a few tickets on my own!

So in this post, I wanted to talk about a few things that are going on in my internship. 1. Some things I’ve learned in these past two weeks while filling out support tickets. 2. The current projects I’m working on or going to work on in the very near future.

Support tickets! A lot of people asked me when I first got my internship: “Why support?” “Why would you want to handle all the problems people run into?” And for me, the answer was really simple. I like helping people. My on-campus job at Mary Washington is to tutor people on digital projects at the Digital Knowledge Center. Students come in who need help with their websites, mainly WordPress, domain management, video projects, audio projects, and image projects. A lot of the time when they come in for help it’s really just the basics of getting set up with a domain name or even installing WordPress through Installatron. After working at the center since it first opened back in 2014, I’ve learned a lot about the ins and outs of WordPress help and was able to take those skills to my own website.

^^The office does not look like this at all. But it would be really cute if it did!

But support at Reclaim is very different. I don’t think I realized this at first and I was surprised to see the wide range of topics each support ticket covered. And I have a lot of new topics to learn. I started looking through the documentation that Lauren wrote back when she started at Reclaim and that is extremely helpful. I’m a very visual learner so I learn by actually completing the tickets as well. But it’s also really weird to try to complete the ticket because I’m not sitting right next to the person like I would be at the DKC. That was a major adjustment I am still getting used. Sometimes people will submit tickets with not a lot of information on their problem and I just want to jump through the screen to see what they see on their computer screen.

Another major learning curve is with applications. Since I mainly tutor on WordPress, that’s the application I know the most about. Reclaim supports a ton of other applications, though. At one point last week I was trying to help someone upgrade their Drupal install to the most recent version and I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. Luckily Google was on my side for this ticket and I was able to quickly find the solution to the problem (or at least find a tutorial to help the person through it). The same thing happened with Omeka. Now I know a little more about Omeka because some classes in the History department at UMW use it. But I don’t know much.

I’ve been talking with Tim this past week about things to start working on when support is not so busy. We came up with a few projects I could start working on. I am going to start working on my own Omeka and Drupal installs on my own subdomain to learn all I can to prepare for potential support tickets. Tim also suggested that I start learning SSH, a command line language to navigate around the servers efficiently.

So stay tuned for the next couple of weeks to see my progress and how the internship is going! I’m excited to keep learning all I can!

It Came from the Domains Stacks!

Bryan Mathers is experimenting with animating his art—which is lucky for us—and he has taken the “Domains Death Star Eye in the Sky” poster he created for Domains 17 and gave it life:

But he even got crazier than that in the following video gem (be sure to make it full screen before viewing!):

How cool is that? Embedding that animated brilliance into a stack of records to help define and promote the insanity that will be Domains 17.  Are you ready? Are you animated? Are you registered? No? Let’s take care of that now.

We’re All Devo

The name Devo comes “from their concept of ‘de-evolution‘ — the idea that instead of continuing to evolve, mankind has actually begun to regress, as evidenced by the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society.”[9] Devo’s Wikipedia article

Devo’s theories of evolution have never seemed more relevant, so the latest Reclaim Hosting server is named in honor of the early 70s video/music pioneers who brought an entrenched, surreal social satire to their work. One of their unique contributions was their elaborate and trippy music videos with recurring characters such as Booji Boy and General Boy, music video narratives that prefigured MTV. Interestingly, Devo was formed in response to the Kent State shootings in 1970-where several of the band members went to school-and were conceptualized as a satirical attack on the militaristic, consumer-driven logic of contemporary U.S. culture. With their mainstream success with “Whip It” (1980), they also became representative of pop New Wave for a entire generation of kids heading into the 80s (myself included).

Yet, despite their early critiques of consumer culture, Devo was not beyond shilling for Pioneer’s Laserdisc technology in the early 80s. Their craziest work shows up in the 1984 video compilation We’re All Devo, featuring their music videos from 1976 – 1983, much of which is re-released ten years later in another compilation of their videos from 1976-1990: The Complete Truth about De-Evolution (1993). Both came out on VHS and Laserdisc, the latter work using their Pioneer promotional clips as an organizing principal. While effectively goofing on their own willingness to shill, the blurry line between a sustained critique on pop culture and indulging it always made their later work oddly uncomfortable.*

That said, Devo’s concept art-as-entertainment approach to their music and videos (I own the Laserdiscs and they are a prized possession) puts them in that interesting category of musicians who are just as much performance/concept artists. Sharing as much with bands like The Residents as  Flock of Seagulls 🙂 But unlike most of the New Wave decadents, the Akron, Ohio spud boys introduced a brave new philosophy of a changing world order premised on de-evolution. A theory we might do well to consider in some depth presently.

*I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge it was hard to stomach the hypocrisy of a band constantly complaining about corporate music shilling for Disney during the mid oughts. But sadly it seems if just about any band stays around long enough they will eventually cannibalize their catalog for profit—it’s Devo in action 🙂


Reclaiming my Internship

Hello everyone! I haven’t posted in a while. But I’m really glad to get back to the blog! You’ll see a lot more posts from my this semester because I am blogging for two major things happening as I begin to finish up my time at Mary Washington. I can’t believe I’m set to graduate in May! I have bunch of exciting projects coming up as well so stick around to hear more about those.

Reclaim’s logo

So this post is going to be about my internship! I’m currently working for Reclaim Hosting, a web hosting company based here in Fredericksburg. They currently host the all of the University of Mary Washington’s websites through the Domain of One’s Own program, which is where I was able to get this website. Reclaim also hosts numerous other schools websites as well, some of those schools use the same program that UMW has.

My first day was on Monday and I have to say it was so much fun! I’m tackling the support side of the company, so I will be helping clients with anything they need help with. That could be something as simple as giving them more information about the products Reclaim offers, to domain migration, and broken websites. And that doesn’t stop there. There’s a ton of things that could potentially go wrong. Way more than I thought.

It’s a little overwhelming at the moment because I really have no clue where to begin when a new support ticket comes in. But I’m taking it one ticket at a time and Tim is so helpful when I have a question. Jim and Lauren both work remotely and they also help out so much when Tim is unavailable. The group is very supportive and I’m very grateful for each of them.

I’m currently working my way through some online documentation on the Reclaim website to learn more about how to solve the potential problems clients could have. I’ve been going through previous support tickets as well. It’s a lot of research! I have a little bit of experience through my tutoring job at the Digital Knowledge Center but its more support for what the client sees. I work directly with WordPress, and cPanel. Reclaim is different in the sense that we work one level up through the servers to provide support. I had a few flashbacks to my sophomore year starting at the DKC and having absolutely no clue what I was doing. But I’m genuinely enjoying the work at Reclaim, I like helping people through problems and teaching them how to use specific parts to their account.

But one thing I definitely want to work on in the coming weeks, I need to get better at writing descriptions and I need to proofread before sending out the correspondence. I find I tend to repeat phrases multiple times within a ticket. So that is one thing I want to improve in the next few weeks.

So that’s it for this post! Keep checking back here throughout the semester. I will post regularly to document what I learn. I’m excited to continue learning more and more while working with Tim, Jim, and Lauren throughout the course of the semester!