ReclaimVideo Nightmares

It took a bit of time, but ReclaimVideo has moved out of the possibility stage into the planning stage. We will be working on building out the storefront space from January through March, with hopes of a grand opening this Spring. Timelines are flexible, but there will be a brand new video rental store opening up in Fredericksburg in 2018. Expect nothing less than the trailing edge of innovation in all things Reclaim—the first name in retrograde technologies. More on that as the store progresses, but right now we are in the fun stage of purchasing movie titles and equipment on Ebay and beyond. Read more

Workshop Clip: DNS

Clip from my session on DNS during day one of Reclaim’s Administrator Workshop. During the 45-min talk, we covered DNS basics, types of DNS records and how to edit them, handy DNS tools & strategies, and frequently asked questions.

If you missed the workshop clip on Supporting DoOO, you can find that here.

Documentation guides that I wrote for this talk are linked below:

DNS Full Category
DNS Summary
Handy DNS Tools
DNS Frequently Asked Questions
Editing DNS Records in cPanel
Editing DNS Records in WHM

Reclaiming SPLOTs

 

I already blogged this summer about my growing excitement about the possibilities for SPLOTs (which is an acronym for simple teaching tools) for Reclaim Hosting. But after a recent trip to Colgate University, I’m ever more bully on these tiny teaching tools. SPLOTs piqued a lot of interest during a workshop and presentation I gave at Deakins University and Charles Sturt University in July, so Lauren Brumfield and I decided to integrate them into the two-day workshop we were running at Colgate University around their Domain of One’s Own setup to see if we got a similar response. We did.

The response to SPLOTs amongst the small group gathered to administer and introduce the campus community to Colgate Domains was quite enthusiastic. We spent day one providing a system overview of Domains, with a deep-dive into managing cPanel, WHMCS, etc. Day two was focused on using Domains for teaching and learning, and showcasing some of the possible applications both within and beyond WordPress. It was during that second day where we decided to dig into SPLOTs—although we did introduce them briefly the day before when talking about syndication sites. Rather than having a pre-defined script around SPLOTs, we decided to wing that part of the workshop and have everyone in the room try and build a portfolio using the SPLOTs Alan Levine designed on StateU. In fact, this month it has been Alan’s turn to play the SPLOT Warrior, and I have no doubt he’s already got the revolution Down Under in full effect.

Image credit: Alan Levine

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Sharing SPLOTs Between Servers

During a recent trip to Colgate University (another post on that coming soon), Jim and I had a chance to meet with folks on the ground floor and discuss their visions for Domain of One’s Own at their campus. By the afternoon of Day 2, we were focusing pretty heavily on SPLOTs, a concept developed largely by Alan Levine and Brian Lamb. (He talks about them in depth here.) Though this is hardly a new topic of discussion, its brand new for this little web space so I’ll go ahead and explain: A SPLOT, or Smallest Possible Learning Online Tool, is essentially a template that can be added to a fresh WordPress installation. Think of it like importing demo content with a new WP theme, but it’s done automatically when you install WordPress. So for folks that have never used WordPress before, splots are a helpful starting point. They allow users to see the potential of their WordPress site before even beginning.

Here are a few examples of splots that Alan created, taken from our Demo server, StateU.org:

^Each splot is actually an individual install of WordPress aimed towards different uses: portfolios, course sites, class collaborations, archives of writing, etc. He configured each WordPress install with different sets of themes, plugins, images & dummy text, setting customizations, and pages & posts. Once complete, we were able to ‘save’ the install as a template that other users can see at the point of install. Below is a screenshot of a WordPress installation page where the user could install a number of templates or continue with a clean WordPress dash:  Read more

Workshop Clip: Supporting DoOO

Clip from my session, Supporting Domain of One’s Own, during day one of Reclaim’s Administrator Workshop. During the 45-min talk, we cover strategies for approaching support tickets, user FAQ’s, and common errors.

Now I realize you can’t really see the screen in this video– oops. Hoping we’ll be able to fix that for next time! Still wanted to share this clip as I think it does provide useful information & discussion for DoOO admins.

Documentation guides written for this portion of the workshop are linked below:

Supporting DoOO Full Category
• Fix for Changing Site URL in WP Dashboard
Approaching a Support Ticket
Unblocking/Blocking an IP in CSF
Common Troubleshooting Fixes
HTTP 500 Errors
Understanding .htaccess
Fixing Permissions

Photobook: Reclaim Team in NYC

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Omeka S Installer Now Available

We were very excited yesterday to see that the great team at Omeka had rolled out the official 1.0 version of Omeka S (in addition to a gorgeous new website that highlights both S and Classic versions of the software). We’ve been following the project with anticipation for quite awhile now and we know a few users have installed the software manually while it was in the alpha/beta stages. An installer has always been on our radar but we wanted to allow the Omeka team to provide a clear line of support and feedback loop for their product while it was still in beta via their forums (which continue to be a wonderful resource for support of the software with the developers very active there). With the software reaching maturity now and being publicized more widely it was time to make it easy for any Reclaim user to give it a go.

So what is Omeka S? If you’re familiar with Omeka for exhibits and one-off projects you’ll find that Omeka S is a better approach for managing multiple repositories. You have one set of code, plugins (or modules as they’re called now), and themes that are shared across the sites you create. In many ways this will remind you of WordPress Multisite versus standalone WordPress. For institutions or organizations tasked with managing more than one Omeka install this opens the door for an easier workflow. And Omeka has rebuilt their codebase from the ground up.

As of today the installer has begun rolling out to all of our servers (both shared hosting as well as institutional Domain of One’s Own systems). You’ll find installation incredibly straightforward. Simply choose the location you want to install to and fill out a few brief fields setting a name, email, and password and you’re off to the races. Here’s a quick screencast showing what that looks like:

Not ready to run it on your own domain yet? Omeka has provided a sandbox environment for you to play in so you can test the software without setting up any accounts of your own.

We could not be more pleased to continue supporting CHNM and the Omeka team as well as the larger DH community by making this available. Give it a shot and let us know what you think!

Fall 2017 DoOO Workshop

Workshop of One’s Own, Reclaim Hosting’s first administrator-focused intensive workshop, has come and gone. And I don’t use the word “intensive” lightly here- it was a dense two days, packed with information that would make even the most qualified admin exhausted, but was amazingly helpful nonetheless.

For this workshop, the Reclaim team really wanted to focus on creating an initial knowledge base of documentation that speaks directly to the Domain of One’s Own administrator. While the DoOO Community Forums can be helpful for certain categories, and there’s a template of DoOO support docs floating around for the community, we felt that there really wasn’t a source for administrators. We realize bringing Domain of One’s Own to a school can feel like a massive undertaking in itself, so if we can help even just a little bit with the onboarding process for new admins, then we’ll consider that a win!

So that was the mindset going in: a workshop for folks that would land somewhere between the Reclaim team coming to the university for in-person training, and the new admin putting in countless support tickets with us as a form of learning. Since this was a new event for us, we reached out to folks personally that we thought might benefit from the training. Though the attendees came from an array of backgrounds, titles, and experiences, we were really pushing to get people that, at the bare minimum, had experienced DoOO at their school for a couple of months. That way they had some familiarity with the platform, had time to come up with questions & knew in advance where their school wanted to take the project.

Jim talking through the three systems that make DoOO.

On Thursday morning, the first day of the workshop, we met folks at Reclaim’s office in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We introduced (or in some cases, reacquainted) ourselves over Panera bagels, and then jumped right into a platform overview at 9 am. Understanding how the platform works and being able to conceptualize how the three main pieces work together is crucial for supporting a community, so we felt like this was a strong start to the workshop. And as Meredith mentioned in her post, having only 6 attendees quickly made the environment feel intimate and comfortable.

I loved the “hands-on” feel. Notice Tim Clarke in the back writing on our feature request wall!

After the first session, Tim & Jim took the folks through an in-depth look at WHMCS (client manager) & WHM (server side). The initial homepages of these tools can feel quite intimidating if you haven’t worked with them before, so this felt like the natural next step in the itinerary. In WHMCS, the two covered ‘active’ vs. ‘pending’ orders, deprovisioning accounts, email templates, account ownership, creating Admin roles, and understanding logs & general settings. In WHM, Jim & Tim discussed settings in Installatron, hosting packages, account management, cPanel feature manager, addon domains, storage quotas, and changing domain names. Whew- what a list!

From there I spoke about the actual supporting of DoOO. We’ve learned from early on that Domain of One’s Own is nothing without people that use it, so understanding how to support the community is well over half the battle. I have videos of the talk that I’m currently working to get online, so those should be coming along soon. I covered strategies for approaching a support ticket, top 5 most common support requests & their fixes, unblocking IP addresses in WHM, .htaccess files, HTTP 500 errors, and quick database fixes.

Somehow in the mix of topics and sessions, we were able to fit in a quick lunch– courtesy of Chipotle. :) (Group order links FTW!)

Day two of the workshop was probably my favorite– we picked up right where we left off, continuing to talk through support scenarios by discussing hacked websites and how to clean them up and prevent them in the future. Tim walked folks through strategies, tools to use, and necessary steps to take. I summarized his talk in my blog post, Workshop of One’s Own: Notes on Hacked Site Session.

Meredith talking to attendees about Domain Transfers.

After that, Meredith spoke on Migrations, Transfers, and Databases. Quite the feat for someone who just joined Reclaim full time in September! She discussed migrating folks to a Domain of One’s Own platform, transferring them off DoOO after graduation, requirements for domain transfers, EPP codes, the lifecycle of domains, the importance of database migration, nameservers, and domain privacy.

Before lunch, I jumped into all things DNS, continuing the theme of supporting Domain of One’s Own. DNS has always felt like a hefty topic for me, so I only covered relevant content regarding the projects of those sitting in the room with us. We explored what DNS actually is and does, types of DNS records, how to edit records from WHM & cPanel, and common DNS errors and fixes to be aware of. I’m hoping to get the video of this session up shortly as well!

With Benny’s Pizza as fuel, Workshop attendees were given a ‘breakout room’-like puzzle during their lunch break. The group had to work together to solve a pretty involved support ticket with fixes that were covered over the last day and a half. They were given 3 escalations or ‘lifelines’ where they could submit a support ticket to ask the Reclaim team for help, but only ended up using 1 lifeline. It was awesome to watch them work together, and to hear their thought process for finding solutions. Everyone had come to the table with different levels of understanding and experiences, so they were able to play on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. When all was said and done, the group of 6 solved the ticket in under an hour by: editing DNS records, correcting a .htaccess file, manually turning off a faulty WordPress plugin, installing an SSL certificate, and editing database files to fix a broken WP dashboard. Not too shabby!

By the afternoon on day 2, everyone was feeling pretty drained but motivated for the last stretch of the workshop. I continued with a discussion about Exit Strategies for graduating students, and spoke on handling migrations, deleting old accounts, and the instructions to give students. From there, Tim conducted the last formal session of the workshop by talking about the potential of APIs in a Domain of One’s Own instance. It was nice to switch gears from more of a formal training of ‘how-to’s’ to an overview of ‘here are things that you could be doing’ approach. He talked through WHMCS hooks, taking advantage of cPanel features without accessing the cPanel interface, additional APIs in Installatron, and different API tools.

The last hour of the workshop was left for an open discussion- we answered any outstanding questions that had arisen, and then tackled more user/project-specific requests.

All in all, it was a jam-packed, successful event. We’re hoping to do these workshops regularly- potentially once a semester- and are so thankful for the folks that decided to come out and help us kick it off. The Reclaim team has already agreed that future workshops should include more interactivities besides the group lunch event on day 2, as they really do help liven things up and allow the group the opportunity to apply what they learned. And though we did take frequent breaks, I’m thinking future events should require additional stretch breaks, or potentially an activity or two where they have to stand up and walk around the room. (Haha!) Regardless of how helpful it can be to dive into dense tutorials on the big screen & follow along on computers, I think we could have used more reminders to get our blood pumping.

Whew! If you’ve made it this long, thanks for reading! Be on the lookout for future Workshop events at reclaimhosting.com/workshop.

Reclaiming NYC

The first team trip, for me, was one for the books! This was definitely a lot of fun and a great way for us to regroup before the end of the year, and the perfect time to reflect on Workshop of One’s Own.

WoOO is a two-day workshop that Reclaim hosts, to introduce and train Our Domain of One’s Own schools on the three parts that make up DoOO, WordPress, WHM, and WHMCS. This was our first time running a workshop in this capacity, but we want to continue to offer this to the schools we support through Domain of One’s Own. I thought this was successful. We spent the two days talking about each purpose of the trio that makes up Domain of One’s Own and how to support the program. We created a website that we hope becomes one of the go-to options for DoOO documentation. We reflected on what we could do to improve the workshop for the next go around in the car on the way to the airport just after finishing the final talks.

We decided that just talking to the participants wasn’t enough. That can get boring quickly. We ran an ‘escape room’ where we posed a series problems to fix a  troubled website. We gave the participants 2 lifelines to ‘support’ where they could ask us questions. The group was determined to not use the lifelines, and they successfully made it through the room without using them! This escape room quickly became one of the favorite activities.

Another thing that came up was the size of the group. We opened registration to include 10 people total. But as things moved along we ended up with 6 participants. This was honestly the perfect size. We wanted this to be a focused group of individuals where they could get all of their questions answered, and hopefully, they could learn all they could about supporting Domain of One’s Own. We decided as a group that a smaller group like this would be a better option.


Once we arrived in NYC, most of our conversations shifted towards how we felt as a group, and what the future holds for Reclaim. We even talked about where the company has expanded since the last team trip, to Portland, around this time last year.  Lauren and Jim both wrote about on their blogs, oddly enough both called Reclaiming Portland.

So what does the future hold for Reclaim? Cloudron is definitely a cool one, Tim wrote about this on his blog, but I’ll give a short description of what Cloudron is. From their website “Cloudron is a platform to host apps on your server and keep them up-to-date and secure.” And this is a super seamless way to install a single instance of WordPress and Ghost. This is so simple, There’s no need to worry about remembering passwords when installing the application, you can access this with the one password you set up when you log in.

Continuing on the future of Reclaim, we talked about a potential new marketing campaign… I think this will be an awesome addition to Reclaim and let us reach new schools. Be on the lookout for more on that!

This trip was also very inspiring. On Sunday morning, we found ourselves in SoHo and close to Chinatown for brunch. It dawned on me that one of my favorite Youtube Creators, Casey Neistat, has his office in this area. I only know this because it is literally a place on Google Maps. Casey is a filmmaker, entrepreneur, and content creator. He started a business called Beme, which is like Snapchat. Recently, this company was bought by CNN but the headquarters is still on Broadway in NYC. We decided to take an adventure to the office after brunch and it was honestly so surreal. I happened to look up just before we got to the office and there it was! I thought it was pretty cool see where someone works when I only see that in their videos. Taking away the screen as a barrier made this all so real.

The Beme Headquarters

 

We may have left Reclaim’s mark in NYC as well…

Spot the Reclaim sticker

One last thing we talked about during our time in NYC was how we felt as a company. And I think we’re all in agreement when we say that things are going well. I’ve been on the team fulltime for two months now and I have no complaints. Yes, we all have those super boring days where nothing happens and then there are days when we’re getting new tickets left and right. We also talked about where we’d like to see the company go in the next year, and for me, I’d like to take on documentation as a project. I’d like to use writing documentation as a way to have an understanding of how everything works. When writing an article about something, it kind of forces you to learn about that topic before you publish the article.

So that’s what Reclaim is looking towards in the future! We definitely are growing, and this weekend in New York was a great time for us to get to know each other a little more and a great chance to see where everyone is at this point in their Reclaim career. Here’s to the future!

Workshop of One’s Own: Notes on Hacked Site Session

Reclaim Hosting put on its very first 2-day Workshop for Domain of One’s Own admins on November 2 & 3. The following post is a summary of the first session from morning 2 of Workshop of One’s Own.

3 STAGES:
Identifying a Compromise
Cleaning a Hacked Site + Scanning Tools
Preventing a Hacked Site

Identifying a Compromise

-Checking Apache Status in WHM- the request column
-Visit the site. Worth noting that a site can load perfectly fine even if it’s hacked.
-Connect to the site via FTP, look for files that have random names
-Process Manager in WHM & kill processes
-Email Queue (Mail Queue Manager + ConfigServer Mail Queues)- check if the account is throwing out spam; delete the entire queue. Won’t stop spamming, but clears the slate.
-Are there any strange additional users in the database?

Cleaning a Hacked Site

-Clean up tools that don’t care about the application in question
-Completely delete wp-admin & wp-includes, and every other generic WordPress file besides wp-config or .htaccess
-Remove any injected code if needed for wp-config or .htaccess
-Reupload fresh copies of all plugins & themes installed; have a conversation with the user about what they need, premium plugins/themes
-Check wp-content>uploads for .php files. You should never see any .php files there!
-Grab a clean copy of WordPress, skipping over wp-content
-After you’ve done what you can, take a back up of it.
-Restoring a backup is always an option if the user hasn’t made any changes
-Recycle account passwords

Scanning Tools

-The first line of defense: Linux Malware Detect; can be installed on the server and managed through terminal. This is free, open-source software that quarantines hacked files. You can set a cron job that runs daily. Historically, this doesn’t detect everything but is a great start & preventative measure.
ConfigServer Exploit Scanner– commands in WHM to run scans; great search features; tons of options for different scans

Preventative Measures + Good Practice

-WordPress plugin: Wordfence; free and premium version
-CXS Watch in WHM; checks for any changes across any account, could have false positives so that’s something to be aware of
WPS Hide Login WordPress Plugin
BitNinja; distributed firewall on all of Reclaim’s servers
-Keeping WordPress plugins & themes up to date