Instructional Tech at Reclaim Hosting: a Crossover with Everything

This post will likely be less organized, and more of a messy stream of consciousness has I make sense of the new Instructional Tech team/offering/thing at Reclaim Hosting. Documenting my way of thinking at a given time is challenging, but I think this is necessary for reflection and later use.

We have been toying with the idea of an instructional tech offering or service at Reclaim Hosting for some time, but our team has been too small in the past to have the capacity to really own or do it justice. But now that the Instructional Tech thing is beginning to take shape (and more on that in a minute) I’m finding that a lot of the work we’ve already been doing is further reinforcing this idea. We’ve dabbled in workshops & trainings. I’ve sent out (infrequent) newsletters to admins about the “happenings” at Reclaim. We have open forums to engage with the community. Our support has always gone above and beyond, whether you pay us $30/year or $3,000/year. So seeing these common themes with the budding working of Instructional Tech at Reclaim has already been cool to witness in and of itself.

As with anything though, there’s a balance with what we’ve been able to take on over the years, and our time has more or less been filled with keeping the ship afloat. Newsletters haven’t been as consistent as I would’ve liked. Support documentation needed to be refreshed. We’ve had to set boundaries around what we can and can’t support, and we’re protective with our time in terms of the projects that we take on. Until recently, due to time and tech constraints, we’ve had to say “no” to various things like hosting certain applications that are not compatible in a cPanel environment, acting as a consultant on a unique digital project, or offering our support/insight for edge cases.

While Instructional Tech at Reclaim is still very new, one immediately clear change that I’m seeing is that we’re now able to say “yes” to more. “Yes” to unique digital projects in Reclaim Cloud, “yes” to more workshops/meetings/areas for community engagement. “Yes” to consistent newsletters. That part of Instructional Tech is already really cool. I’ve also really enjoyed being apart of the Instructional Tech team meetings each week, which usually run close to two hours, and are filled with “what if we did this” type conversations. All the ideas that are brimming at the surface brings a newfound energy to Reclaim, which personally for me is always welcomed. I’ve been with Reclaim for coming up on seven years now, so finding new elements of inspiration is crucial for my personal happiness.

It seems like others are excited too. We’ve taken a few early meetings with some institutions to check in and see how they’re doing, and also introduce or share our ideas about Instructional Tech at Reclaim. I’m excited to document this more in future posts.

Now if I put my business hat on for a moment, I want to make sure we’re balancing the amount of new work we’re taking on, so we can build sustainable internal practices and avoid burnout. In order to do Instructional Tech at Reclaim right, it needs to be slow, steady, and acheivable. There is no doubt that Reclaim Hosting is busy, so balancing the new excitement with realistic goals for our team is something that I’m thinking through on an almost daily basis. I want to be mindful of the work that we’re taking on, and I want to make sure that we’re not biting off more than we can chew. Where is the work happening? For instance, the work doesn’t only happen in an hour long meeting with a school. There’s prep time beforehand, internal conversations or diagnosis with our Infrastructure team, post follow up work, and then any research or tasks that come as a result of the meeting itself. And if 2-3 Reclaim team members are on the call, that work is doubled or tripled.

As for now, we’re still in an exploratory phase of seeing what works and what doesn’t work. In these moments, I find that leaning into the community and being transparent as possible is the best way forward. We have to be open about how Instructional Tech at Reclaim is new, that we’re still learning and open to feedback, and we want to know what the community needs. I’m a very visual person, so for me, this means that Reclaim should be “stepping off the pedestal” so to speak (not that we like being there in the first place), and instead sitting around a table with other institutions, sleeves rolled up, and ready to work hard alongside everyone else. I’ve found that folks are much more receptive to that approach, vs. Reclaim Hosting walking in, chest puffed out, acting like we have a solution for every problem.

I also know that the exploratory phase means that we’ll likely be saying “yes” to a lot more at first, and then ultimately reining it in once we understand where Reclaim Hosting services can be most useful or effective. In our most recent brainstorming meeting about this, our ideas have landed on the following:

  • Workshops, targeted and built for a school’s unique set of needs
  • Additional training for new DoOO institutions. (Ok so you have DoOO… now what?)
  • One-off consultative meetings about growing digital projects on campus, account cleanup, migration strategies, or something custom
  • Professional Development/one-off consultation meetings with Edtech & Faculty
  • Focusing on Reclaim Cloud containers and docker
  • Tools for virtual/hybrid learning or meetings/workshops– OBS, StreamYard, YouTube Live, PeerTube
  • Increased Managed WordPress Multisite support via workshops, documentation
  • Monthly consultative meetings with Admins- regular checking in, feedback, strategizing
  • Skilled Tasks: Site/Content Archival, Community Showcase Site, best practices for accessibility
  • Monthly Community Chat, monthly newsletters

See what I mean? Reclaim has never had a problem with ideas. :) We just now have to hone in on what makes sense & what would be most valuable or helpful for our Community. Also, charging for some of this stuff seems weird. I think it’s important for Reclaim Hosting to still go “above and beyond” without putting everything behind a paywall, but where that paywall lies is still up in the air. While writing this, the following visual came to mind:

In short, Instructional Tech will allow us to do more.

The other large shift I’m seeing is more of an internal one; a culture shift amongst the Reclaim Hosting team. If you look at the above bullet point list, everything listed there boils down to support. Instructional Tech is support. There’s also a crossover between Instructional Tech and our Sales/Account Management team, in terms of understanding relationships and backstories, offering helpful recommendations, and being apart of initial onboarding conversations. There’s a lot of instructional tech work that our Sales/Account Management team has already been doing as well, like workshops, trainings, and consultative meetings. Finally, for every edge case and unique digital project that needs to diagnosed and/or hosted at Reclaim, our Infrastructure team plays an essential role in making sure these projects are running successfully. What’s more, we look to our Infrastructure team to help facilitate internal professional development trainings. Instructional Tech bleeds into everything that we already do externally, but also internally as well. So, it makes sense that this feels like more than just a new service we’re providing. It’s changing the way that we work internally to undo perceptions, change mindsets, and create purposeful crossover amongst the teams. I really believe that the introduction of Instructional Tech at Reclaim will not only provide more pathways of engagement for our community, but also for our employees.

To end, I’ll mention that Reclaim’s second Community Chat will take place tomorrow, Feb 9, and I don’t think it could come at a better time. The chat is called “State of Reclaim” and all teams will be invited to participate & speak briefly about the work that they’re doing, amongst other things. I’m looking forward to it!

Blog Post Featured Image: “over the sun” by Meyer Felix is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Custom Application Installers at Reclaim Hosting

I’m excited to announce that starting this month, we will be allowing Web Developers to share their custom, 1-click application installers with the Reclaim Hosting Community. This means that if you have an application in mind that you’d like to make widely accessible to 200+ institutions, you may do so by building out a custom, 1-click installer and submitting it to Reclaim Hosting for review. We’ll still be watching our Feature Requests for improvements and additions, of course, but now anyone who wants to share their application and build alongside the Reclaim team will be able to do so.

You can view our full list of existing 1-click application installers (both in cPanel/Installatron and in Reclaim Cloud), and you can also learn more about our existing custom 1-click installers (and how they differ from Site Templates) by reading this article.


This has been an internal topic of conversation at Reclaim Hosting since roughly October of last year. The idea of allowing others to contribute to applications available to the Reclaim Hosting community is exciting for me, but the process is quickly muddied when thinking about all the different types of applications out there. Installatron vs. Reclaim Cloud installers… what are the steps? How can developers test the installers in our environment? What if the applications aren’t kept up to date over time? How do we support installers we haven’t built? How do we make sure that what we’re offering is sustainable for the community? All of these questions were considered as I put together the following webpages:

Landing Page

Given there would be different instructions for Installatron and Reclaim Cloud, as well as potential questions about how to submit an application for review and what developers are agreeing to in the process, it was super clear that we needed a landing page that we could point folks to that had all resources available. I needed this page to offer an overview, include stepping stones for resources, highlight our commitment to sustainability, and take submissions. I used an Elementor template for the design, so it was ultimately quite simple to get up and running once it was properly formatted and we had the correct content to fill in.

Hovering over each block shows “Learn more” buttons.

I also like that this page gives me the flexibility to layer in additional “stepping stones” or resources as this project ebbs and flows. One of the first things I’m looking to expand upon will be a Case Study with Learnful Labs, but I will save those details for another post. :)

For the Submission form at the end of the page, I’m actually using a generic Elementor form here. I tested a Gravity Forms embed, and there was nothing particularly wrong with it, but I ultimately liked the look and feel of Elementor’s. The submission form is made up of three parts: Contact Info, Application Info, and Agreement. To help with the Contact & Application info sections, I created a Submission Checklist page. As for the Agreement step, I added in a checkbox with an embedded link to Reclaim Hosting’s new Software Developer Agreement, so anyone who submits an installer must first acknowledge these terms. Here’s what was used:

By checking this box, you are agreeing to the terms outlined in the Reclaim Hosting <u><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Software Developer Agreement</a></u>. 
If you have any questions, please <u><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">contact Reclaim Hosting</a></u> before proceeding. 

As a small aside, while doing this^, I ended up learning about something called Tabnabbing. Essentially this an exploit that uses the browser’s default behavior with target="_blank" to gain partial access to your page through the window.object API. So basically this just means that when you’re creating hyperlinks that open up in a new tab, you should add rel="noopener noreferrer" to prevent that. The more you know!

Installer Instructions

For each set of installer instructions, I worked with Tim to make sure we were providing an outline of requirements, packaging instructions, and testing information for each environment. Given every application and their required environment(s) will look different, the instructions are fairly open-ended, though pointed towards existing documentation from our providers. For example, this is the quickest way to create a Reclaim Cloud installer, as described from our upstream provider, Jelastic. In terms of testing, Reclaim Hosting is happy to provide access to a Demo cPanel/Installatron server or extended Free Trial access in Reclaim Cloud as necessary.

I chose to use a Tab layout for both sets of instructions in order to simplify the look of each section. Each step is inconsistent in that some have screenshots and they vary in lengths, so placing things in a list format, for instance, would ultimately look choppy and incomplete. Similar to the landing page “stepping stones” I also like that this allows me to add new steps or information with minimal disruption to the page design.

Software Developer Agreement

Incorporating a Software Developer Agreement was a less glamorous, but no less important step for us. In order for protect our community and guarantee that what we’re offering is sustainable long-term, it is crucial that Web Developers are taking ownership of the application installers that they are building. Big shoutout to Chris & Justin Webb for their insight & help with this. Here are the cliff notes:

  1. You (Web Developer) acknowledge that software updates are a continued requirement within an ecosystem that relies upon other products and services. As such, it is expected that you will update and maintain your product on a recurring basis and no less than annually.
  2. Reclaim Hosting reserves the right to periodically review all applications and custom products. Upon review, if vulnerabilities or impacting issues are found that affect (or involve) your application, Reclaim Hosting will notify you of the issue with the expectation you will patch or update your product and submit for review within a timely fashion. Issues are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and in circumstances where vulnerabilities are severe or present risk to the customer or other systems, Reclaim Hosting reserves the right to temporarily remove your product until such time as it has been updated successfully.
  3. Reclaim Hosting works to provide support to all of its customers and to conduct basic triage, troubleshooting and assistance. However, for in-depth (“2nd tier or 3rd tier”) support related to your application, Reclaim Hosting reserves the right to redirect customers directly to you for investigation or remediation of issues.

Next Steps: Submissions & Review

Those interested in building out a custom application installer may reference the Submission Checklist, which provides a full list of what’s needed for a complete submission. Custom Installers that are submitted to Reclaim Hosting will undergo internal review with our Support and Infrastructure Teams, and we’ll be in touch throughout that process to work through any areas of improvement. This will allow us to make sure that what we’re releasing to the community at large will be solid and around for the long haul.

This is an exciting step for Reclaim Hosting, and I can’t wait for what’s to come.

A Semester Rush Worth Celebrating

Sometimes it can be really easy to get caught up in all of the hustle and bustle of daily to-do tasks that we forget to celebrate the work happening at light speed all around us. Celebrating milestones can be easier, because there’s usually a momentous occasion like a work anniversary or conference event that makes us all stop for a moment and say, “Wow, look at that!” But what about the smaller, yet hardly insignificant daily tasks being completed that Reclaim Hosting comes to expect? Those are the tasks that keep the train moving. This blog post is to recognize the day to day work happening all around:

In the last two months, our support team has resolved ~1600 support tickets with a combined 98.8% satisfaction rating. All support documentation was moved out of the Community Forums and into There’s been an overall increase in Professional Development with folks completing cPanel certifications and starting in on a month-long Docker course. We also have an active job listing open for another support team member.

In Infrastructure, there’s been ~230 odd completed asana tasks coming from escalated internal requests, sever monitoring notifications, roadmap projects, and general system improvements. Our servers have had 99.87% uptime over the last 90 days, and we’ve just pushed out two new shared hosting servers (Gyruss and Robotron) to Reclaim Cloud. Finally, we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming Goutam Vijay Narang to the team as Junior Web Developer. Goutam is already jumping into the ring and I’m so excited to see how he steps into his new role.

The Sales/Account Management team is continuing to work with newer and prospective schools as well as supporting our existing community. In the last couple of months, we’ve been able to hello to Ohio State University Libraries, Miami University of Ohio, Utah Valley University, NYU City Tech, and University of Texas at Austin, to name a few. :) We’re making great progress with revamping our DoOO admin documentation, and are super excited to bring that in house with the rest of our documentation at With the continued growth at Reclaim Hosting, bringing on Pilot Irwin as a Hosting Account Manager was a no brainer. Pilot was previously an administrator for one of our DoOO schools, Carleton College, and the perspective that they bring to Reclaim has already been so valuable.

As a way to say thanks for all the hard work after the new semester rush, we’re sending out build-your-own snack boxes to all employees. If you’ve never used SnackMagic, I highly recommend. These boxes were sent out to everyone during the height of covid quarantining, and here’s a photo of my last box:

Fun, right? I’m also excited to give high fives to some of the Reclaim team when we meet for a group trip in Nashville this November. But until then, here’s a virtual high five!

Community Highlight: SUNY Oneonta’s Pandemic Diary Project

I had to stop what I was doing today to write this post. I had just been in touch with Ed Beck, Teaching, Learning & Technology Center (TLTC) Instructional Designer at SUNY Oneonta, about this coming contract term for their Domain of One’s Own instance. Ed shared a super cool project that has come to fruition over the last few months, and I am in awe. Before jumping into that, I wanted to quickly share a little bit about SUNY Oneonta’s Domain of One’s Own setup:

It is unique in that the server’s Single Sign On integration is actually managed at the state level so that all interested SUNY campuses can participate. Ed has been spearheading this project, SUNY Create, from SUNY Oneonta, and last year I held a workshop on their campus where educators from SUNY Geneseo and SUNY Oswego joined as well. We spent two days thinking about what this joint initiative will mean as a community, the ways in which campus admins would need to communicate through policies and support, how it could scale, and how admins might lean on each other along the way. They’ve been growing steadily over the last year, and I’m so excited to see how it builds.

Enter one of SUNY Oneonta’s latest projects: The Semester of Living Dangerously: A Pandemic Diary Project for Housebound Students, Faculty and Staff of SUNY Oneonta. As the title suggests, this is a pandemic diary project for the SUNY Oneonta community to share their stories, experiences, perspectives and reflections about living through the Coronavirus pandemic. The post contributions that I’ve read through are so genuine, raw, and descriptive.

Here is a small collection of favorites:

I’ll admit that I found myself getting a bit emotional reading through so many different posts. I recognized my internal struggles in some of this writing, while some voices shared experiences that hadn’t even occurred to me. This project does a beautiful job in making an isolated community (both inside and outside of Oneonta) feel just a little less alone and a little more understanding, courageous, and educated. I also love that the authors can stay anonymous if they choose.

In addition to the powerful content on the front end, Ed was kind enough to share how he brilliantly set up the backend. He began by pimping out a WordPress install with a miniOrange SAML 2.0 SSO plugin. While the free version of the SSO plugin doesn’t allow for a custom login page, Ed created a cool workaround by setting up a separate contribute button on the homepage. He reconstructed the SSO clickthrough URL to allow folks to authenticate with their campus Single Sign On and then be redirected back to a new post page in the WordPress dashboard. All logged in users are given a WordPress user account and granted a Contributor WordPress role. So. Good. (And very similar to some of the DoOO user role workflows!) I hope Ed writes more about this in the future blog post he’s promised me. :)

Ed is also using the free PublishPress Plugin to give users more editing power (i.e. uploading images). The Better Notifications for WP plugin has allowed Ed to customize the types of emails that are being sent out to users when they first register, create a post, and have their post approved. He also added the SMTP Plugin for WordPress, which makes the emails look like their coming from a address as opposed to a address, which keeps the emails out of spam folders. Finally, Ed has the User Switching plugin running which allows WP admins to switch into the dashboard of a contributor and see what the end user sees (– another similarity to the DoOO dashboard, and super helpful for troubleshooting).

The collaborative efforts from the SUNY Oneonta History Department, Milne Library, and the TLTC are so inspiring. The archive of stories they have built will undoubtedly become only more invaluable with time. At the time of writing this, the Pandemic Diaries site has just over 100 entries from Oneonta students, faculty and staff.

Community Highlight –

I can’t believe that my last blog post was roughly a month ago! There’s so much that I need to share in this little space and the work at Reclaim is far from slowing down any time soon. But what better way to jump back into blogging than to start a new series of posts showcasing work done in the Reclaim Community? This sort of thing is long overdue, frankly, but there’s no time like the present. On a semi-regular basis, I want to start featuring more work from the DoOO community on my website under the community category because 1) cool sh*t deserves recognition and 2) being able to point to this space for schools that are considering similar projects would be awesome. So, without further ado, everyone check out the new website for!

The team, Daniel Villar-Onrubia, Lauren Heywood, and Noah Mitchell, did a wonderful job in making the homepage both inviting and informative. They tailored sections for both students and educators, followed by easy step-by-step instructions for getting set up in a web hosting environment. Web Hosting can quickly feel intimidating, so ‘getting started’ steps are immediately followed by links to the knowledge base.

Sitting at, the knowledge base is arguably my favorite part of the project. The icons feel like literal stepping stones to navigate the waters of a new web space. More than just documentation with screenshots, this page thoughtfully answers questions like: Why is this important? How do I design a space that’s accessible for everyone? How should I be sourcing images I find on the web? How do I create a privacy policy? How should I structure and organize my various projects? This knowledge base takes on more than just the ‘what-to-do’s’– it tackles the ‘why’s’ and ‘how-should-I’s’, which is equally just as important in a space of newfound digital literacy.

I often get questions from prospective DoOO institutions about how other schools handle Terms of Service and Code of Conducts in this digital space. Having examples is a critical part of that answer, and I really love Coventry’s take on this. They’ve linked to their Terms & Conditions and Code of Conduct right on the footer of their home page, as most institutions end up doing, but Coventry has taken it a step further. They’ve added a Sign Up Notice, written in plain English, in an effort to be completely transparent about how user data is being processed and how it can later be removed. Users have to agree to this before even authenticating with Single Sign On to begin signing up.

If you’re interested in chatting further with Coventry’s Domain of One’s Own team, they can be reached at And as always, feel free to check out other DoOO projects at

Investing in Community

Investing in Community

I recently received a support ticket, not so much asking for support, but rather wondering about the status of and why it wasn't promoted more. The person pointed out that it wasn't really linked anywhere or mentioned as far as they could tell, which was absolutely true. When Jim and I first started Reclaim Hosting the idea of building community was very much at the forefront of our minds. I fired up an instance of Vanilla Forums at the time probably only a month after Reclaim Hosting got off the ground. But I never visited there myself. I let it stagnate almost from day one. When Howard Rheingold started experimenting with Discourse I thought "now here's an interesting piece of software for conversing on the web!" and switched up the community site to run on that. I even used a WordPress plugin to make all comments from our blog get driven there as larger discussions. The result: well....nothing. As it not so surprisingly turns out, people don't just flock to new spaces because you hope they will.

The community site has been dormant for a long time now and often I've wondered if it was better to just nuke it into orbit. I had high dreams of folks sharing with each other there, asking questions about how they might approach a given topic, or even user-driven documentation on how to do a particular task on Reclaim. But building community takes so much more than just sitting back and hoping for something to develop. It takes real effort to draw people in, stoke conversations, and it takes a huge amount of good will in the early days. We've had no shortage of good will in building Reclaim Hosting from the community that has embraced us, and if a space to cultivate that is something that I want, something we want, then it's going to take work.

And so last week I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. There were some boring technical details I wanted to accomplish like getting the site to run on SSL thanks to Let's Encrypt support. For the first time I added a link within our client area. I grabbed the RSS feed and started showing the latest posts on our documentation site. And most importantly, I started seeding conversation and inviting folks to the party. You see, Discourse has this great feature that allows you to invite someone to a thread and when they click that link they can immediately start responding without having to go through the process of creating an account. It's a very powerful feature that I have been using a lot this past week to bring folks into the fold and cultivate....well...discourse. Discussions, ideas, tutorials, announcements.

We have a long way to go and it will often require me to get outside of my comfort zone and ask people to participate, be intentional in my actions to seed the space with new ideas and conversation. It's not something I'm used to doing, but it's incredibly important. There is no shortage of amazing people doing incredible work on Reclaim Hosting. And if our support system is any indicator then there are plenty of folks who could use a helping hand as well. We're always there for them, but I would love for that same generosity to extend to the broader circle of people who have trusted us to assist in helping them build their digital identity on the web.

Consider this post me breaking the ice and welcoming you in. I would love for you to come over and chat with us there. As time goes on we'll continue to figure out ways to generate new topics there but I ask that you not be shy and participate in what's happening there. After just one week of investing the time to cultivate the space I've already seen the rewards and it has renewed my efforts to see that space grow. And I now realize this is the investment that we (Reclaim) needs to make in each and every one of you to foster a sense of communal support, the idea that you don't rely on me, or Jim, or anyone else, but that we all can call on each other and have a space to openly share our thoughts. It's more important than ever to me now and I would love for you to join us in that effort!

Investing in Community

Investing in Community

I recently received a support ticket, not so much asking for support, but rather wondering about the status of and why it wasn’t promoted more. The person pointed out that it wasn’t really linked anywhere or mentioned as far as they could tell, which was absolutely true. When Jim and I first started Reclaim Hosting the idea of building community was very much at the forefront of our minds. I fired up an instance of Vanilla Forums at the time probably only a month after Reclaim Hosting got off the ground. But I never visited there myself. I let it stagnate almost from day one. When Howard Rheingold started experimenting with Discourse I thought “now here’s an interesting piece of software for conversing on the web!” and switched up the community site to run on that. I even used a WordPress plugin to make all comments from our blog get driven there as larger discussions. The result: well….nothing. As it not so surprisingly turns out, people don’t just flock to new spaces because you hope they will.

Continue reading “Investing in Community”