Reclaim Cloud Art, Bryan Mathers, and Gettin’ Air

It occurred to me yesterday after finally listening to Terry Greene‘s interview with Bryan Mathers for the Gettin Air podcast that I never blogged about our Reclaim Cloud artwork. That needs to be rectified, and I will share the awesome below, but before I do I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the interview between these two. Possibly the coolest part was when Bryan started interviewing Terry in order to see if he could “draw” out of him some ideas that he could refactor as a visual for the podcast, and voilà Gettin Air has a new logo!

I dig it, especially given I have returned to snowboarding these last few years, but even better was Bryan getting Terry to talk about his idea behind the name, his articulation of what he’s doing and why—it was all so effortless and real. It was a beautiful demonstration of how the interview can become the thing it wants to share. So genius, well worth a listen if you have some time.

Anyway, that whole process reminded me I have not yet shared the work Reclaim Hosting did with Bryan this summer to get started on the Reclaim Cloud aesthetic. Given Reclaim Cloud is premised on a container-based architecture, we initially explored if we wanted to go down the road of shipping containers, and we have some initial sketches from Bryan that I absolutely love.

The containers are actually VHS tapes! A point made clearer in the heavy lifting image that follows:

It really is brilliant, it captures the idea of Reclaim Cloud as both container-based and industrial-strength, which it is! But ultimately after talking with Bryan we realized the hard limits of the nautical/container metaphor. So we moved on to Cloud City, an idea Martha Burtis and I fleshed out for Domain of One’s Own back in the day.

I still love that poster, in fact I have a stamped copy of it framed and hanging on the wall behind me as I write this. So we got to talking a bit about it, although Tim was a bit reluctant given he is not a Star Wars fan, but through conversation the idea of a retro-futurism aesthetic began to emerge a la The Jetsons.

And Bryan’s rough sketches had us very intrigued:

The idea of scaling your domain was fun, and the way Bryan mapped that onto retro-futuristic housing and was brilliant. In the final image the beginnings of a logo/cloudlet begin to take shape already. This was our aesthetic, and we kind of knew it during the discussion, but the seeds of the sketches sealed it.

The final option was to stick with the music/video metaphor we already have and push it further with mixed tapes. But it just felt forced, and I think Tim and I both wanted the freedom to jump out of that metaphor and explore something new, and I am really glad we did.

The next conversation after deciding on Cloud City was to scout the internet for some ideas for our next conversations, and that is when Tim landed on industrial designer Arthur Radebough’s Closer than We Think comic strip from the late 1950s through 1963. The way in which the art incorporate an explanatory panel and then the actual art incorporates various explicit arrows illustrating the future gels nicely with our idea of introducing Reclaim Cloud as a way of highlighting for higher ed what’s possible in this new space. So, we got to talking, and the first round of art was amazing:

I really love the industrial logo for Reclaim Cloud which is itself an encapsulated container, a cloudlet if you will, and this idea of self-contained cities became a bit part of our aesthetic. And the fact that Bryan Ollendyke said it reminded him of Bioshock on Twitter just sealed it for me 🙂

We were sold after this image, a kind of brochure for Cloud City which enabled us to start exploring the idea of what it would mean to try and create a series of vignettes of the different options for anyone interested in moving to the Cloud. It was just too fun, so the follow-up discussion was to explore the Closer than You Think comic strips to highlight some of the one-click applications we have for courses, organizations, and digital scholarship:

Pure magic! The way in which the container has become an organic part of these images is just so awesome. I love the one outside the window of the home classroom. This idea that it is all connected yet separate is one way to understand the cloud, and Bryan really brought it home. And as amazing as all the art is, I think his breakdown of the various elements of a Reclaim Cloud container that could incur costs in a fullblown masterpiece:

This sphere is everything, literally. I just love the way the aesthetic has evolved and the final bit is thinking through how we’re going to highlight what is happening within each cloud. This led us to the idea of “What’s in your Cloud?” wherein we talk to folks to provide us a peak into their Cloud, what are they running, how, etc. The following image is a placeholder, but we are thinking through ways of trying to capture the individual nature of folks’ cloud for each episode, and Bryan mentioned some kind of comic-like avatar, like my Cotton Mather avatar in a spacesuit hold my Cloud sphere, which would be awesome!

Anyway, I think that brings us up to date, and to be clear this has only just begun. We are thinking of Reclaim Cloud as a long-game. We know it will not replace cPanel hosting; we have plenty of time to experiment with the possibilities; and we can slowly start moving our existing infrastructure over as we become increasingly comfortable with the environment. Not to mention it has forced us to dig in and learn a lot more as a company, and as much as I was kicking myself given I was just start to feel a bit liberated from the day-to-day, in the end I love it. We’ve been dreaming of this kind of infrastructure since we started Reclaim Hosting, and in 3 short months we went from nothing to a pretty full blown product that provides some concrete solutions for academics wanting to host something outside of the LAMP stack. And this retro-future aesthetic is our way to start experimenting in this space without pretending there aren’t also real problems baked into every solution—we’re here to explore right along side you.

A Follow-up on Costs in the Cloud

Some new Reclaim Cloud art from Bryan Mathers, isn’t it beautiful?

Yesterday marks the first full month of my being a paying customer in Reclaim Cloud. I wanted to take the occasion to follow-up on my post in July where I started projecting what the costs of hosting on Reclaim Cloud might look like given you only pay for what you use, and that will be variable over time. The uncertainty of variable pricing can be scary, but at the same time once you have a sense of what to expect it starts making a lot more sense. So, below is a look at my total monthly cost for August hosting this blog, ds106.us, my own Jitsi instance (which I turn on and off as needed), Etherpad, a YouTube Downloader app, as well as a number of parked applications I’m experimenting with.

And the verdict is in, I spent $87.42 in August, and that breaks down as follows:

  • bavatuesdays (WordPress): $35.73
  • ds106.us (WordPress): $26.70
  • ds106club (Ubuntu VPS): $5.93
  • bavanotes (Etherpad): $5.77
  • bavameet (Jitsi): $4.23
  • Youtube Downloader: $2.89

These are the apps I regularly used, and that works out to $81.25, the other $6.17 was spent on the Ghost ($3.04) and Discourse instance ($3.04) the former of which I eventually shutdown and archived to a static site. The remaining .09 cents I spent on testing various environments with a few different apps.

The nice thing about the Cloud billing is it gives you insight into exactly how many resources you used and what they cost at the container level and beyond. Above I exploded the view for this blog and you can see the costs are split up given I moved the environment mid-month. The costs are predominantly for the LEMP application server ($31.37) and the rest is for the dedicated IP address ($3) and the CDN I installed ($1.36) brings the total to $35.73. This is about half what I would be paying with Kinsta, which is nice to know, and about $5 more than Digital Ocean, although that did not include a CDN.

The big win for me once Tim added the Edgeport CDN service that Reclaim Cloud is utilizing is that I really had no more reason to pay Cloudflare for their CDN and caching service, effectively saving me $20 per month (actually $40 if you include I also had a pro plan for ds106). So, I am effectively $90 monthly for my web services through Reclaim Cloud, with a fair bit of room to experiment. I could probably shave off $8 or $9 if I started and stopped Etherpad and the Youtube Downloader application. I think this kind of monitoring of usage makes me consider not only what I am spending, but what resources I am using. And this is a bit different then just minding money—I could probably skip the bill and no one would say anything 🙂 —it’s the fact it makes me more mindful of what I can shutdown to save resources—such as Discourse and Ghost—it goes back to the idea of turning off the lights when you are not in the room. Same thing here, and it is what is unique about the Cloud, in shared hosting I spend far less, but at the same time I hog resources with the 15-20 applications I have installed (maybe two of which I am actively using) and never think twice about it.* I’m not sure sustainability is the right word given its environmental connotations, although it might be, but it does make sense in terms of ensuring our shared hosting infrastructure is not overburdened with accounts that demand more resources, such as mine.

Anyway, I guess I am still blogging about this because I’m so used to paying $30-$100 a year to host any and everything I want on a shared hosting server and I am trying to come to terms with a digital life outside the “free” third party trap services is something I have to start accounting for, and as a result budgeting accordingly.

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*At least until Tim gently reminds me other folks are paying for those resources you are burning.

Reclaim Remix ‘n’ Match: a Visual Thinkery Production

I do love myself some Visual Thinkery creativeness, and I’m not gonna lie, when it invokes Reclaim Hosting I am a complete sucker ? Bryan Mather’s latest twist metaphor for the Remix Machine is the Flip Book, and it is oh so good! Reclaim Your Domain indeed! And Reclaim the awesome sense of artistry, inspiration and just plain fun! So, I couldn’t resist a quick riff on my last post!

The Remix Machine runs on support from folks like you reading this, so if you have the means and are so inclined, support some local web art!

The Art of Domains19

There was a lot to love about Domains19,  and I’m just starting to get my head around the event. But I think the most gratifying part of the conference for me was to see the art exhibits really take. I’m at heart a frustrated artist, I desperately want to be one but I lack much of the talent and work ethic required, so I just reproduce 80s living rooms, VHS stores, and soon video game arcades. It’s a kind of art I guess, if art is a bad imitation of life.

Anyway, all this to say I was thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with Ryan Seslow on his featured art piece around accessibility for the conference, namely “The Art of Accessibility.” The development of this piece is worth documenting a bit. We had Ryan down to Fredericksburg twice before the conference as a way to both brainstorm and let the piece gestate a bit. The first visit was in February. Ryan came down and we spent a Saturday playing around at CoWork. We had in our mind that we would try and get screens to highlights his various GIFs as part of the piece, but this is where serendipity and being together worked its magic. We had a bunch of old TVs and VCRs laying around the office that we picked up or folks had given us for Reclaim Video, and Tim had the idea that we could repurpose them to show off Ryan’s GIF for the exhibit. This started us down a really fun path of playing with the Raspberry Pi Video Looper setup, and soon enough we had a pretty solid sense of the piece:

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Make art with @ryanseslow, dammit

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That was a few hours one weekend, and we decided then that one more trip down would allow us to spend another weekend to finish the piece together. So, to that end, we brought Ryan down again in late May and actually built the pyramid of 9 monitors and mapped out all the other pieces like which Raspberry Pi would go with which TV. Also, to work around the fact we had more TVs than Raspberry Pis, we actually recorded 6 hours of a looping GIF onto two different VHS tapes and had two of the 9 screens actually running a GIF via VHS. We also introduced the video projector which would feature a whole wall of GIFs and then, finally, we got not only a GIF running in an Internet Explorer browser on Mac OS9, but also used one of the TVs to act as a monitor for a 1999 Apple Quicktime camera George Meadows had donated to Reclaim Video. 

The whole thing was really fun because Ryan was so damn easy and awesome to work with, and he just let Tim and I shoot ideas about how to highlight his art, and together we built a piece I am inordinately proud of. Tim was a master at adding a number of cool features (the Apple spy camera, the Mac OS9 browser GIF, etc) as well as making things work, and this exhibit is testament that most good things are a collaboration of many people contributing what they can. I think it’s awesome, and it highlghts what my work life has felt like fo the past 15 years, I have been very lucky in that.

More importantly, I do think the piece does justice to Ryan’s attempt to capture the chaos of making sense of the digital world as a deaf person, and the array of dead technology highlights the prison house of form and style of that defines our media landscape.  It was a truly a generative collaboration, and folks seemed to appreciate the resulting product. In fact, while setting up the night before a group of young artists were digging on it pretty hard, and it made me happy:

But pretty much everyone brought their A-game to Domains19 when it came to art. The TmCertified crew consisting of Matt Roberts and Tommy Birchett were educating the Domains community about the real value of the new derivative art on the global exchange market known as the web. I may, or may not, be able to get a version of the art Tess and I collaborated on for their installation, but they were nothing short of awesome. It was performance art and interactive, creative fun. I loved it.

Also, Zach Whalen‘s Glitch Art frame was amazing. He built the frame and stand that encased the GIFs though two monitors and each day a new combination of Glitch GIFs. It was mesmerizing, and reminds me how awesome Zach is!

Speaking of UMW, they really brought it hard for the art fair, Jess Reingold and Jennifer Hill’s Battle for Silicon Valley triptych hat maps the techno-plutocrats of our era on top of the an historical painting from the 18th or 19th century (not sure which one though):

There was a visit from the good Dr. whose drone could put to sleep an entire room of folks.

While not a Domains19 art work per se, it was good to see SPLOTs represented in the general collection ?

Martin Hawksey and Bryan Mathers teamed up to create a photo booth where folks could use the Fabulous Remixer Machine or create a GIF from back to the future with McFlyify.

And Martin Hawksey out did himself with one of the best keynotes I have seen in a very long time. He actually built a the  “They Live” generator that “lets you relive the seminal moment [in They Live] when Nada walks down the L.A street and the real truth is revealed.

They Live

Martin used Kairos to demonstrate how accurate that software is at detecting if you are wearing sunglasses, it also returns other demographic data such as age, gender and ethnicity. 

And then there were sava saheli singh and Tim Maughan‘s Screening Surveillance films, which were an awesome addition, you can hear them discuss A Model Employee in the video above.

I am thrilled so many folks took the idea seriously and brought made this little experiment possible. It built on the Domains Record Fair last year in some important ways, and I really love the idea of highlighting art and creativity as part and parcel of good edtech. 

Support the Remixer and the Arts

It’s been over 4 years since I met Bryan Mathers in Barcelona, and I regularly count my lucky stars for that chance encounter. While shooting the shit at a table with a selection of fine folks Bryan quickly sketched out what would be the iconic image of Reclaim Hosting, one that remains near and dear to my heart. The Reclaim Vinyl icon:

It’s so beautiful!

Since then we have collaborated on quite a few projects and he has been an absolute joy to work with. He is the best kind of art therapy for your organization ? In fact, a believe it is the Reclaim aesthetic, which has evolved to the VHS tape, that has provided us the freedom to actually create fun projects like Reclaim Video and Reclaim Arcade with a certain amount of impunity. I personally think the power of art is woefully undervalued or overlooked in edtech, which is a shame given how much an organizing visual principle makes for good design. In fact, the coolest thing about Reclaim Hosting has been the ability to collaborate with artists like Bryan Mathers, Michael Branson Smith, and Ryan Seslow. And hopefully we will get the opportunity to work closely with Amy Burvall here soon as well, I think we can play with a whole Putin-inspired 80s Soviet revival ?  In fact, Domains19 is very much premised on the idea that we should be focusing more on art to communicate what is happening with tech that everywhere surrounds us. it is a tall order, but in the spirit of #ds106 we are all artists, and we should spend a lot more time exercising this facility that everyone has access to.

Image of Remixer Machine featuring Reclaim's VHS

Anyway, I’ll step off my soapbox here for a second to plug our most recent collaboration with Bryan Mathers in which he has created the Reclaim VHS tape as remixable object in his amazing Remixer machine. He wrote a most kind post about the project, and we are happy to regularly support his work in all its wonderful emanations. In fact, you should too. In these troubled times I want to believe it is the artists, not the politicians, that will light the way forward and give is a vision to believe in, so I’m gonna double-down on that belief with my support, and a Remix or two ?

RECLAIM VIDEO REMIXED TAPE

Reclaim Roadshows and the Specter of ds106

You know it has been a busy week (month, fall, year) when it takes 3 days to blog the latest Bryan Mathers magic for Reclaim Hosting, but such is life as a successful businessman. In fact, I’m putting the cart before the horse here a bit by blogging about the art for our next Roadshow (which will be at Michigan State University in late February, but more on that in my next post) before officially announcing the event, but such is life in the fast lane of corporate edtech. 

Anyway, following on the fun we had at Skidmore College with our first Roadshow we doubled-down with Michigan State for what will be our second Roadshow, and while we were consolidating some of the details it occurred to me we really need some art for these events. For me it is always aesthetic first, truth and details later. So, two weeks ago Lauren and I reached out to Bryan and he was kind enough to turn around a meeting within a few days and we had our discussion. We laid out what the Roadshow was all about, essentially it’s a way for Reclaim to hit the road and bring together folks in specific regions of the US (and soon beyond?!) to provide targeted training to folks who could not make it to our workshop. What’s more, we built in a second day to bring together current Domain of One’s Own schools in the region to share the work they’re doing. And, as we quickly learned at Skidmore, it also provides a unique opportunity for those schools who are interested in exploring Domains to get an on-the-ground look at how it is being used. 

So, we gave Bryan the overview and the discussion got underway and what seems like almost immediately we stumbled on what might be the best Reclaim Hosting marketing campaign to date (I’m little more than a crass marketer after all, but with a heart of gold—unlike all those other thought leaders!). We started talking about road tripping for Reclaim and I could not help but think of the bus…which made me think of the brilliant grant proposal (at the goading of Brian Lamb) we submitted under the aegis of ds106 to the Gates Foundation back in the day to fund a ds106 bus. They couldn’t see the magic, surprisingly, but luckily if you will it, it is no dream…at least on paper. The bus has been re-animated as a Reclaim Roadshow Mystery Van a la Scooby Doo, and it is so damned beautiful I wanna cry!

I’ll talk more about the details around the Ghost of Digital Presence title in my next post, but you get a sense how each Roadshow can be its own episode with various “Monsters of EdTech” (borrowing from the now canonical Audrey Watters after the other day’s “I’m f**king done” announcement—punk rock) as topical villains to animate discussion. In fact, it only makes sense this will all be produced by Reclaim Video. The last discussion I had with Bryan was thinking through what an animated episode of an actual Reclaim Roadshow would look like—maybe Audrey would “ghost write” an episode? So, in order to kickstart some ideas I ordered the first two seasons (1969 and 1970) of Scooby Doo on DVD for holiday watching with the kids, and one of my resolutions for 2019 will be to see if we can create a Saturday Morning Animation series of Edtech. This also touches on another video project I have been wanting to teach, and even wrote an unnecessarily long email to Martin Weller about my ideas around video and teaching, but I should probably save that discussion for another post given this is already running long. 

If nothing else, let this post attest to the fact that Bryan Mathers is an endless fount of creative awesome! 

You’re Invited to the Domains 19 Conference

Nothing makes an event feel more official than when the website finally goes live. And the Domains19 website has been official since last Thursday, so I think it is fair to say this conference is definitely happening. It will be taking place on June 10 and 11th at the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina. The site art is a throwback to visions of the future during the 80s (hence the “Back to the Future” theme for the conference), and we are fortunate enough to have Ryan Seslow working with us to define the overall conference aesthetic. I’ve found imagining the aesthetic for Reclaim’s various projects over the years some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.* I’m biased though, I always feel the coolest and most compelling work comes out of art projects rather than papers. 

So for Domains19 we are hoping folks will explore various topics the event will focus on through a more experimental, interactive proposal of some kind. I’m planning on bringing back to my “Data is the New Flesh” installation from OpenEd 2013 featuring Dr. Oblivion (despite the fact no one has asked for it), and we’re really hoping others follow suit so I’m not entirely alone. In fact, I’ve a sneaking suspicion our keynote speakers, which will be announced over the next few weeks, will be eschewing traditional presentations formats for a more interactive and immersive series of experiences. 

All that said, more traditional presentations and panels are also fine … I guess ? You can find the  call for proposals here, and if you are planing on coming but not presenting the registration page is also live. So, if planning on presenting or just coming to take in the Art of Domains, consider yourself officially invited! We would love to see you all in North Carolina this June to explore a wide variety of pressing themes that will hopefully transport us back to the various possible futures of EdTech.


*The tradition goes back to the myriad design work we’ve done with Bryan Mathers for severla years now, as well as the more recent building out of the Reclaim Video site with Michael Branson Smith.

Reclaim’s VHS Splash

Bryan Mathers‘s developed a VHS splash page for Reclaim Hosting, and we really, really like it. I’ll let him explain the details, while I just revel in its beauty. I will note that the title on the VHS tape is automatically generated based on the domain someone signs up for, so before they install anything in the root of their domain, this is what they will see:

Who has more character than Reclaim Hosting, you ask? #NOBODY!!!!

“Video Killed the Radio Star” at Reclaim Hosting

Lauren posted about this back in January when we first got the art because she is better than me, but Reclaim Hosting‘s site has undergone a subtle re-branding from vinyl to VHS. We launched the new art for our site back in April when we unveiled the Reclaim Video project at OER18. The idea is that the shelf is getting a bit more cluttered ? Next to the vinyl you have those upstart VHS tapes demand some of the real estate. The new logo is a VHS tape, but if you look close enough, all the elements of the vinyl are still there, which was quite brilliant on Bryan Mathers part—surprise, surprise.

The tape is now replacing the record on the site, but the easter egg is still fully operational:

The art is pretty much inline with our look, so perhaps rebranding is too strong a characterization—but it does feel like a new look for me. I particularly like the way shared hosting packages are re-imagined:

Almost works better than the albums, and the single VHS tape with a blank label is something we still need to play with. Bryan worked on a tool that would basically right a URL on the label, something like this:

Or even better , this ?

So, when you create your site for the first time at Reclaim Hosting the splash page could be this VHS tape with your domain name ? This might be something we need to return to sometime soon ? As usual, I am completely enamored with Bryan Mathers handy work, and it is the collaboration that just keeps on giving.