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.

___________________________________

*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!

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! 

Make Some Noise

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a conversation I had with Bryan Mathers at OER17 regarding the new default splash page for new accounts on Reclaim Hosting. I got so taken away with Bryan’s Dali take on Reclaim that I forgot what we originally talked about: namely a turntable letting folks know their site works and they can login and “Make Some Noise.”

Awesome, right? And Bryan even animated the image, which we are working on integrating for all new shared hosting accounts on Reclaim. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, imagining the whole Reclaim aesthetic (not to mention the Rockaway Hosting aesthetic) has been the most fun I have had in a long while. It just keeps on making me smile.

The Persistence of Memory

One of the many joys of OER17 was catching up with Bryan Mathers in person. We were chatting before one of the sessions about re-designing the default splash page for new accounts on Reclaim Hosting—the final hold-out from our original design. We talked about the possibility of have a few images rotating through in the splash page, but as usually happens the conversation just found its own way and after talking about memory, archiving, and the web Bryan starting talking about a Salvador Dalí-inspired vision of web-based memory and persistence: Not sure if this will be our new default splash page, but I have no doubts we will find something to do with it. First and foremost a blog post featuring the awesome and soon after framed poster in the new Reclaim offices ?

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.

Domains as Art

I just got another delivery of Domains 2017 art. Damn this conference has the coolest aesthetic ever. Bryan Mathers rules, and he has taken the Sci-fi 70s idea I recently blogged about and is running with it. The examples below are so colorful and gorgeous, and get at the whole play on an early attempt we made at UMW to frame Domain of One’s Own as Cloud City (which none of the students really got, which was bizarre to me). The Domains conference promises to be something totally different, and you can get a sense of that from Lauren‘s recent posts about both OKC and the venue where Domains17 will be. If you are looking for reasons to come, let the focus on space and art be amongst them!

Also, have I mentioned Bryan Mathers rules?

Domains 2017 will be Intergalactic

One of the joys of being on the East Coast of the U.S. right now is waking up to gems like the above video from Bryan Mathers. I already blogged about Bryan’s poster for the Domains 2017 conference, so seeing this 15 second spot Bryan created was heavenly. Between the Beastie Boys “Intergalactic” background music, the roving, pulsating bubble and the rising mechanical hand (reminiscent of the monster on the Queen’s News of the World album cover) I was in heaven. I’ve been criticized for my focus on marketing and promotion, but it’s hard to argue with when it looks this good! Domains 2017 is going to be intergalactic, indeed.