IndieWebCamp: Domain of One’s Own Meetup

This past Tuesday I attended the second Indie WebCamp generously hosted by Chris Aldrich focused on Domain of One’s Own. The format is a more focused 10-15 minute talk around a specific technology, in this meeting Tim gave folks a walk-though of Reclaim Cloud, and then opens up to the 21 attendees for anyone to share something they are working on. Tim shared the Cloud, and not only was I thrilled to see Jon Udell in attendance, but it’s always nice when one of your tech heroes tweets some love for your new project. Even better when you know they’re not one to offer empty interest and/or praise. Thanks Jon!

It was also very cool to read Will Monroe write-up of the session, and like him I found it a “very friendly group” and I realized while attending that this kind of low-key chatting and sharing is one of the things I have missed these days. Folks like Will who want to explore what’s possible in their classroom with Domains and beyond is a big part of what I miss about the day-to-day work of an edtech in an institution. And while I’m not necessarily chomping at the bit jump back into that game given the current circumstances, the ability to share and chat with folks who are interested in Domains is always a welcome opportunity.

During the sharing portion of the meetup Jean Macdonald, community manager at mico.blog, turned me on to the Sunlit project while I was bemoaning the dearth of open source alternatives to photo sharing apps like Instagram. Soon after I finally took the leap and signed up for a mico.blog to explore that platform. That platform has been a indieweb cornerstone for many folks I respect like John Johnston, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, and Dan Cohen to name just a few. So I wrote my first post:

What was even cooler was the fact that while writing this post I logged back into micro.blog and discovered a few folks had welcomed me to the micro.blog community, including Jean Macdonald and Dan Cohen—that makes all the difference.

I’m sold, so the IndieWeb meetup was a total win for me, and I look forward to the one next month. I am going to start getting serious about headless WordPress development for my new website at jimgroom.net, inspired by Tom Woodward’s talk for #HeyPresstoConf20

So, I’ll have something to share in my journey to learn WordPress headless, which will mean learning javascript, CSS, and some other insanity I am not entirely ready for. I have to give a special thanks to Chris Aldrich for putting this together and working to create a space to talk Domain of One’s Own within the IndieWeb community, and I know Greg McVerry has been pushing hard on this for a while now as well, so it is very much appreciated!

Plugin Review: Ultimate Dashboard

Ok, folks- I’m pretty jazzed about a new plugin that I came across just this afternoon that I really think could change the game for #DoOO SPLOT/Site Template Builders and WordPress Multisite Administrators. My research for something like this began from an email I received from Coventry University asking about the extent that we could generate “getting started” language within new sub-sites of a WordPress Multisite. Coventry Admins were looking for ways in which they could guide beginner users, encourage them to build an “About Me” page as part of a larger Portfolio, and simply offer additional resources as users begin to settle into their new site.

The plugin I found is called Ultimate Dashboard and, as the title suggests, it allows you to customize and simplify your WordPress dashboard. There’s a free and a pro version, and quite a bit can be done with the free version. Check it out:

What I first see when installing WordPress-

What I see after playing with Ultimate Dashboard for a few minutes-

^ To Summarize the above, I was able to:

  • Remove the “Screen Options” and “Help” tabs from top right
  • Add a StateU Support admin page to the left dashboard menu bar and order it in the list
  • Completely remove existing WP Dashboard widgets
  • Create my own WP Dashboard widgets and order them
  • Alter the footer language

I’ll explain the steps I took below, but I was shocked with how simple and intuitive it was. Also, its pretty cool that you’re able to do so much with the free version alone.


How to Remove “Screen Options” and “Help” Tabs

Go to Ultimate Dashboard > Settings and check Remove Help Tab and Remove Screen Options Tab. Done. (On this page I also have the option to rename the Dashboard to something else, but I decided to keep it the same since any and all WordPress documentation will refer to it as a Dashboard.


Add a StateU Support admin page

Go to Ultimate Dashboard > Admin Pages and click Add New. Next you can begin adding in your content like any other WordPress post or page. I’m able to embed videos, add in images, headers, etc. I also set this as a Top Level Menu item, but it can be added as a submenu item to any parent menu item as well. Finally, I assigned it the #2 order so it would show up right underneath the Dashboard in the sidebar. I was able to customize the menu icon as well:


Removing Existing WordPress Dashboard Widgets

Go to Ultimate Dashboard > Settings and check All next to Remove All Widgets. The Pro version of this plugin allows you to easily remove third party plugin widgets (things like Elementor, Google Analytics, WooCommerce, etc) as well. However to work around this I quickly reenabled the ‘Screen Options’ tab, unchecked third party widgets there, and disabled the Screen Options tab again. Ha!


Creating my own Dashboard Widgets

Here’s where it really started getting fun. Ultimate Dashboard allows you to create three different types of Dashboard widgets with the free version: Text, Icon, and HTML. I tested all 3 and they’re beautiful!

Text Widget

Go to Ultimate Dashboard > Add New. Give your Widget a title, choose the Text Widget Type, add in your content and click Update. At the bottom you also have the option to set a fixed height, which may be recommended if you’ve got quite a bit of text.

Icon Widget

Go to Ultimate Dashboard > Add New. Give your Widget a title, choose the Icon Widget Type, and select the icon that you want to use. From there you can add in extra text that will fade in when you hover your mouse over the top right-hand question mark. The bottom field allows you to add a clickthrough URL for the widget. In this case I used a relative WordPress URL that points the user back to their individual ‘Add New Page’ section of the dashboard. (So cool!) Finally, click Update.

On my dashboard I also created another Icon Widget with an external link. So for example if you’ve got a class site or suite of resources that live outside of the WordPress instance that you want to point folks to, this works great.

HTML Widget

The final widget type works well if you quickly want to embed something without messing with formatting. Go to Ultimate Dashboard > Add New. Give your Widget a title, choose the HTML Widget Type, and paste in your HTML code:

The Pro version of this plugin has actual Video and Contact form widget types, but doing this through HTML is another great workaround.


Altering the footer language

Lastly, the Ultimate Dashboard plugin allows you to alter footer language in the dashboard from something like this:

…to this:

To do this, all you’ll need to do is go to Ultimate Dashboard > White Label and add in your own content to the Footer and Version Text fields.

The Pro version of the plugin way more customization options to allow you to brand the dashboard even further, which may be worth it for a large WordPress Multisite. But for admins that are looking to simplify the WordPress dashboard or offer guidance to new users in a Site Template, the free version may be all you need.


If anyone ends up using this plugin, please let me know! I’d be curious to see how you adopt it for your community.

Filtering Alias Email Notifications into Slack

Ok, today I set out to revamp Sales team notifications for our reseller registrars. I’ll be documenting as I go, but will first share a little back story:

We have some Domain of One’s Own schools that register Top Level domains for all of their users, so keeping those domains separate from shared hosting and consolidated in their own reseller registrar account is crucial. But as you could imagine, we’ve got a handful of these reseller accounts to monitor, and all of these accounts have their own thresholds for funds. It’s important that we keep a solid buffer of funds in each account so X number of domain renewals and registrations can be handled on a given day.

Coming back to the notifications. Our registrar, Logicboxes, will send out email notifications when funds reach a certain threshold within each reseller account. Which sounds simple enough, right? I wish! Unfortunately the email address for these notifications is also the standard billing email address, so changing it to a personal email isn’t really possible. And to make matters worse, the email address is LOUD. So loud, in fact, that we avoid checking the inbox all together and have instead resorted to manually checking reseller account funds daily.

This works fine, but I don’t like it. Manually checking makes way for human error (who is checking what? where’s the communication around the work? what if someone forgets?) and it’s definitely not scalable if we bring in new employees or take on additional reseller accounts.

I should also mention that each reseller account has their own custom email address (school@reclaimhosting.com) which acts as an alias for our catch-all email address, info@reclaimhosting.com.

My idea here was to create a sales@reclaimhosting.com email account and begin routing some of these sales-related emails out of the catch-all info@reclaimhosting.com account and into their own inbox. (I’ve wanted to do this anyway for a while now.) From there, I want to filter/forward useful notifications (like the funds threshold notice) into our designated #sales slack channel. I don’t expect doing this will eliminate the desire to manually check on reseller accounts, but I’m hoping that it will create a failsafe and centralized space to talk about the work that’s happening.


Creating a Sales Email & Setting up Alias Accounts

Reclaim Hosting runs mail though GSuite, so I started first by creating a new email account for sales@reclaimhosting.com. I had to remove the original sales@ alias first.

Next, I moved over all school@reclaimhosting.com aliases that were originally sitting on info@reclaimhosting.com. GSuite has a guide here if you’re interested.

Before doing anything else, I tested to make sure the aliases were working properly by sending an email from my personal email to school@reclaimhosting.com. It worked pretty immediately:


Setting up the Email App with Slack

Before connecting any email to Slack, I needed to first figure out what the ‘low funds in reseller account’ email notification looked like. To essentially generate the notification, I checked on the funds we had our reseller accounts, and then changed the threshold settings to a dollar less than that.

While waiting on those notifications to come through, I set up the forwarding email address in Slack. Using this guide, I went with the option to “Connect the Email app to your Workspace” because I wanted to have the option to choose which emails were being sent; I didn’t want to route the entire inbox into Slack.

Next, I chose the #sales channel since that’s where I want the notifications to arrive:

I went through integration settings, taking note of the custom email address that slack generated for me. That’s what I’ll use when filtering/forwarding specific ‘low funds’ emails.

After saving my settings, I tested the integration in Slack by sending a test email from my personal inbox to the custom address that the Slack Email App gave me:

The notification showed up beautifully in the #sales channel! By the way, I love that Slack allows you to upload a favicon and really customize how the notification comes in.

Defining Email Filters

The final piece was obviously to make sure that the proper notifications were being filtered into Slack. I didn’t want every email from sales@reclaimhosting.com coming into our #sales channel, just the ‘low funds’ notification. First, I set up my email forwarder in Gmail under Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP:

In this step you’ll have to confirm the forwarder email address with a confirmation code, but that wasn’t a problem since I previously tested the connection and the code came directly into Slack. From there I made sure the forwarder was disabled for the time being.

Next, I set up my filter rules in Gmail using this guide. By now I had received the ‘Low Funds’ notification from Logicboxes based on my new threshold settings so I was able to click filter messages like this next to the email:

I added in my simple filter settings (the Logicboxes email is actually coming from support@reclaimhosting.com) and clicked Create Filter:

On the following window, I gave it a quick Label, selected my forwarding address from the dropdown field, and then clicked Create Filter:

^I created a filter like this for each “school@reclaimhosting.com” email address.

The next ‘Low Funds’ notification came directly in the #sales Slack channel as planned. Woo!

Creating Different Versions of cPanel for different User Groups in WHM

cPanel Packages work great in Domain of One’s Own or Managed Hosting environments where an administrator wants to offer different versions of cPanel to the end user. (i.e. Student vs. Faculty accounts; Beginner vs. Advanced accounts; 1GB vs. 5GB accounts… you get the picture.) Watch the video tutorial below to get a sense of what’s possible, and how you would go about creating your own cPanel packages in WHM.

Introduction: 0:20
Overview: 2:23
Package Settings: 5:15
Feature List: 7:28
Installatron Apps: 9:22
Changing Packages: 14:42

A written guide on cPanel Packages can also be found here.

What to Consider When Organizing Faculty Sites and Coursework in cPanel

I get asked all the time how to best organize work, specifically for Faculty course sites, within cPanel.

Should Faculty put everything in one cPanel, or multiple, separate cPanels? Should they use single application installs or a multisite? Should they use subdomains or subfolders?

My small preface here is that there’s no one “right” way to do all of the above. At the end of the day it really comes down to user preference and what you as the administrator are approving and supporting. This post also doesn’t claim to list all options, but simply the ones that have worked well in my experience:

One cPanel vs. Multiple cPanels

^screenshot pulled from my Multiple cPanels Guide

First and foremost, Domain of One’s Own is priced on a per cPanel basis. In an entry-level package, an institution is given up to 500 cPanels on their server. Those cPanels can be owned by 500 users or by 50 users, and will ultimately be determined by DoOO admins as to whether or not they want end users to have the option of owning more than one cPanel account.

Nine times out of 10 I’ll say that the majority of work can be done within a single cPanel account (with perhaps a bump in storage quota & site resources as needed). cPanel allows for an unlimited number of sites/domains/applications to be added to a single dashboard, which means that a Faculty member could be managing multiple projects, course sites, etc. within their one account.

One exception to the above might be if a Faculty member is the liaison for an institutional club, organization, or event that changes ownership quite frequently. For example: it would be a real pain for the Professor X to leave the university, take their personal portfolio with them, and accidentally remove the website for the school newspaper. In these instances where it is crucial for coursework and personal work to remain completely separate a club or event, a separate cPanel account does make sense.

Single Application Installs or a Multisite?

Again, this really comes down to user preference and the project in mind. There are some obvious benefits to a WordPress Multisite over single WordPress installs– the main one being that management happens within a single application dashboard. If you want to install new themes, update software, configure site settings, etc. you’d really only be doing it once with the knowledge that your work is applied to multiple locations.

Multisites are also great for maintaining previous course sites. For example: Professor X might want to install a WordPress Multisite for their Photography 101 class on professorX.stateu.org/photo101, and then have subsites for each semester:

professorX.stateu.org/photo101/spring19
professorX.stateu.org/photo101/fall19
professorX.stateu.org/photo101/spring20
professorX.stateu.org/photo101/fall20

In the above example, Professor X might not be concerned with having separate site designs for each semester, but still wants to keep an archive of previous student work.

Even still, I tend to find myself working with applications as single installs as I need them since I don’t usually have the foresight to think through future projects and set up a multisite in advance. (Now it is possible to convert a single WordPress install to a WordPress Multisite after the fact, but the process is not simple.) I also personally like having separate dashboards for each project because I like keeping projects completely separate, even if it means a little more management on my end. Not entirely rational but there you have it.

There’s plenty of reading out there on the pros & cons of each, so I definitely recommend doing your homework when trying to nail down what will work for you.

Extra Reading:
• WordPress Multisite vs a Single Site vs Multiple Websites [Infographic]
WordPress Multisite vs. A Management Tool: Which Do You Need?
Managing Multiple Sites: WordPress Multisite vs Separate Installations

Subdomains vs. Subfolders

Subfolder examples:
• professorX.stateu.org/portfolio
• professorX.stateu.org/blog

Subdomain examples:
portfolio.professorX.stateu.org
blog.professorX.stateu.org

With this one I won’t try to recreate what was already brilliantly said by Tim in this guide, but I will reiterate the following:

Subdomains are generally a cleaner, more elegant solution to organizing your site. You’re less likely to get conflicts or errors. However, when using subdomains there is an extra step involved: you must first create the subdomains before you can install anything on them.

Conflict Example for Subfolders:
Professor X installs a WordPress instance on professorX.stateu.org, and then creates a page that sits at /blog. Fine. But then Professor X could technically go and install another WordPress instance on the subfolder called professorX.stateu.org/blog. Yikes. Now Professor X has two separate application installs and both are using /blog. #conflict. If that second WordPress instance was installed on the subdomain blog.professorX.stateu.org, all issues would have been avoided.

Hoping this overview helps clarify some of the options out there for site organization, but I’d be interested to hear in the comments if there’s something working for you that I didn’t mention above!

ELI’s 7 Things about Domain of One’s Own

Well, Domain of One’s Own has finally hit the big time ? Earlier this week the 7 Things to Know about Domain of One’s Own case study was published by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. You can download it from their site, but I’m keeping a version here for posterity as well. I was lucky enough to work on the paper with Martha Burtis, Sundi Richard, Lora Taub-Pervizpour, and Keegan Long-Wheeler to brainstorm with ELI’s Malcolm Brown, Greg Dobbin, and Stephen G Pelletier to try and frame this in a way so that folks will get a sense of what it actually is. I really like the first paragraph of the “What it is?” because it captures nicely how Domains is a powerful combination of philosophy, practice, and tech:

A way of thinking as well as an application of technology, Domain of One’s Own refers to the practice of giving students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to obtain a domain with hosted web space of their own …. By enabling users to build environments for learning and sharing, such domains make possible a liberating array of practices that encourage users to explore how they interact with and present themselves in the online world. While giving users more control over their scholarship, data, and digital identity, these domains encourage an ethos of openness, freedom, and exploration and nurture a practice for shaping and thinking about one’s presence on the web. DoOO also draws users into a community of practice focused on collaboration and sharing.

These concepts were at the heart of the experiment when it started at UMW, and more and more schools are picking up on the simultaneously practical and idealistic vision of making the open web a viable platform for teaching and learning. That’s an awesome thing and can and should be celebrated. It’s taken many, many folks to make it work, and there is no way a two-page report will capture all the nuance and history, but it does an excellent job of providing a snapshot for folks who are dreaming about re-centering ed tech around student, staff, and faculty-centered web for teaching and learning. Avanti!

Activating Installatron Apps on a per User/Group Basis

I’ve seen a little confusion surrounding the ability to enable/disable applications on a per user/group basis within a Domain of One’s Own environment, so I thought I’d follow up with a little tutorial:

We should already know that it’s possible to set different user groups for cPanel accounts via Hosting Packages, and then customize the cPanel features that are accessible to each user group (i.e. Hosting Package) via Feature Manager. But is it also possible to customize which installatron applications are available to each user group?

In short, this is 100% possible. Follow the steps below to read more about this:

Pretend Scenario

Domain of One’s Own administrators have determined two user groups within their hosting environment: Beginner and Advanced users. All users will receive the ‘Beginner’ or ‘default’ cPanel package upon sign up, and then administrators can switch to the Advanced hosting package for one-off users as needed. Now, our administrators want to make sure that our Advanced cPanel accounts have access to more installatron apps while the Beginner cPanel Accounts only have access to, say, WordPress, Omeka, and Scalar.

How To Create Groups of Users in Installatron

Installatron > Groups > Create a New Group:

If you’ve got existing hosting packages already set up, I recommend naming these Installatron groups with corresponding titles. From there, you can assign individual cPanel usernames or entire cPanel packages to that Installatron group:

Click Save.

Now navigate to Installatron > Access Control and select the newly created group in the top right hand corner:

Proceed to enable/disable applications like normal. (Steps on this can be found here.) Click save.

Now, any cPanel username or cPanel package that was added to the Installatron group list will see those changes immediately:

Simple as that!

Community Highlight – coventry.domains

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 coventry.domains!

The coventry.domains 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 coventry.domains knowledge base.

Sitting at coventry.domains/learn, 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 dooo@coventry.ac.uk. And as always, feel free to check out other DoOO projects at reclaimhosting.com/institutions.

A Trip to Wake Forest

Right after the Domains19 Conference, Jim and I had the pleasure of visiting Wake Forest University for a two-day workshop around administering their new Domain of One’s Own instance, Wake Sites. I always appreciate this one-on-one time we can have we schools when afforded the opportunity, and our time at WFU was nothing but productive and rewarding.

On the first morning, we met up with Carrie Johnston, Digital Humanities Research Designer at WFU, to get a lay of the land and take a quick tour of the awesome library which is connected with the Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Digital Scholarship space, and One Button Studio (more on that later).

From there, Jim and I jumped straight into a packed two days that covered everything involved in managing, supporting, and administering Domain of One’s Own. We worked with members from IS, DISC, and IT to look under the hood and conceptualize the technical and pedagogical elements that make up DoOO, and thought through how this initiative might have a lasting impact on WFU campus. On top of the fantastic turnout and conversation, we were stoked to find out that WFU has 14 (!!) instructional technologists ready to rock Domains. So cool.

Jim’s Post: Reclaiming Wake Forest
Carrie’s Post: A Week of Reclaim Hosting

This workshop also stands out to me as a personal favorite, because Jim and I were able to lean on the expertise of others by pulling them in remotely. On the first afternoon, Tim joined us on the first day to speak to Reclaim’s workflow regarding bulk migrations into Domain of One’s Own. On the morning of day two we brought in Lauren Heywood, Martha Burtis, and Alan Levine speak on their various experiences with Domain of One’s Own. Lauren spoke about the OWLTEH usage of SPLOTs, Coventry’s progress with DoOO, and different tools that Faculty are using beyond WordPress. Martha spoke about the DS106 Assignment Bank, her experience with UMW’s Digital Knowledge Center, and why there was a need for DoOO at UMW in the first place. Alan spoke about SPLOTs, Domains as a viable options for EdTech, and tools beyond WordPress.

Not only do I think that giving the folks in the room a break from listening to Jim and myself drone on and on, but the perspective that Tim, Lauren, Martha, and Alan brought to the conversation was invaluable and I’m so thankful!

I mentioned earlier that I had more to say about the One Button Studio.. and that’s because it’s so freaking cool! Taken straight from the website, “The One Button Studio is an automated video recording facility with a student focus…No need to mess with camera, lighting, or audio equipment. Just bring a USB thumb drive and the studio will do the rest.”

Brianna Derr, Manager of Advanced Learning Projects for Academic Technologies, gave us a tour of the One Button studio during one of our breaks and my mind was blown! I really love how dead simple it was to turn on the lights and begin recording almost immediately. The simplicity helped make the the studio space feel very approachable and doable for a newbie such as myself. Click here to read more about the One Button Studio mission!

A sincere thanks to Wake Forest University for hosting the workshop- Jim and I had a blast!

Reclaiming Wake Forest

I’ve been traveling pretty consistently to colleges, universities, and conferences talking WordPress, WordPress Multiuser (than multisite), ds106, and Domains of One’s Own for around 13 or 14 years now. When I visited Wake Forest University soon after Domains19 last month I wondered how many different university campuses I’ve seen over that time? I’m no Bryan Alexander so it’s not hundreds (or even thousands?) of schools,  but at this point it’s probably approaching 100.* But all this self-congratulatory, thought-leaderish campus tour talk is to say it does not get old for me. I like college campuses a lot. I spent most of my adult life connected with them as either a student or a professional, and at their very best they represent a protected space for free thinking, exploring, and experimenting in a collaborative environment. I understand all too well that’s not the whole picture, but it’s a powerful enough reality to make the inevitable campus politics coupled with trailing edge salaries almost tolerable ?

Fact is, every time I visit a campus part of me is transported back to the moment I was a freshman stepping foot on George Mason’s campus for the first time in 1989. With that experience came a sense of  personal independence and the promise of possibility that has been hard to reproduce in other experiences I’ve had since. I was there to learn—whatever the hell that meant to me then. It’s a feeling that I often get when stepping onto a new college campus, and that was definitely the case at Wake Forest University last month. It’s a gorgeous 350 acre campus north of Winston-Salem’s Old Town. The university re-located there from the town of Wake Forest  (near Raleigh, North Carolina) after the Reynolds family (of the  RJ Reynolds Tobacco fortune) donated the land in the 1950s. In fact, pretty much everything surrounding the campus is part of the Reynolda Historic District, and we were lucky enough to stay at Graylyn, a Norman Revival style mansion on 85 acres replete with outdoor (and indoor) pools, a farm complex, the garage guest house, and the main manor house. The place was nothing short of insane, making my transition from Europe that much easier ?

Staying at hotels on the National Register of Historic Places certainly adds to the overall experience. What’s more, my daughter Tess was traveling with me on this trip and she will never take my complaining about travel seriously after that. 

“But godspeed the punchline, Jimmy, you started this post with an actual point, didn’t you?” You are probably thinking. And, to be clear, I did have something I wanted to share, and while I feel your pain it’s probably not as acute as yours. Wake Forest, thanks to championing of Dr. Carrie Johnston, has been working on rolling out Domain of One’s Own across campus. They have been quite thoughtful and thorough about the rollout, and this trip was an opportunity to meet with the various parties involved for a hands-on for system admins, as well as some practical examples of possibilities. Lauren Brumfield and I have done a few of these, and I really think we have a pretty good rhythm at this point. In fact, after this workshop I realized Lauren is probably more on her game during these workshops than I am, between her confidence presenting, expansive knowledge of all elements of a Domains setup (no small thing), and her growing ability to read the room and make the necessary adjustments she has far exceeded the skills of her, admittedly limited, docent. 

Before day 1 got started we got to meet Carrie who was waiting for us at Lauren’s reserved parking spot (they most have sensed what I just articulated finally) and I became an immediate fan. Carrie came to Wake Forest after doing a Digital Humanities post-doc at Bucknell University. It’s at Bucknell that she first started exploring hosting for DH projects through Reclaim Hosting, and when she got her position as Digital Humanities Research Designer at Wake Forest that she started to push for a digital home for a variety of web-based projects. And, filed under it’s a small world, the CIO of Wake Forest is Mur Muchane, who was previously at Davidson College and also came to visit UMW’s Convergence Center when I was working there in 2015.  Mur is awesome, and it was immediately obvious he is a strong advocate for the digital work happening on campus. It was an absolute joy to chat with a CIO that so deeply understands and so willing to respond to the diverse technological needs of any campus community trying to imagine teaching, learning, and scholarship in the digital age. 

So, with Mur being the start of our first day at Wake Forest I already got the sense this was a school with support and resources for the digital work already happening. That was cemented when I realized the workshop would have well over 25 people attending both days. I don’t think we’ve ever had this kind of turn out, and when we did the introductions that morning I realized that their were 14 Instructional Technologists on campus, all of whom have extensive experience running faculty sites through cPanel. It’s as if I was in heaven. Wake Forest has been providing much of the resources we package through Domain of One’s Own, and in many ways we are simply a solution to integrate automation of accounts, single sign-on, and get the servers off-campus. It was really a heartening to see that the work we are doing at Reclaim is truly based in the work Instructional Technologists have been doing for years to provide alternative online publishing platforms for their community. Much of the morning was focused on migrating the accounts from their existing cPanel accounts to their Domains instance, a.k.a Wake Sites, which will be dead simple thanks to cPanel’s transfer tool. The afternoon was a deep-dive into managing WHM (the cPanel server) and WHMCS (the client manager software for the cPanel server). It was an intense, but rewarding, first day.

Day 2 started with me giving a talk about some practical examples of Domains and various uses, as well as the philosophy behind the approach that seemed to be fairly well received. My point has not really changed in 13 years, given faculty and students a space on the web to fashion their online identity using relevant tools, and sites they create should be managed and controlled by them and ultimately portable. After that we had Martha Burtis, Lauren Heywood, and Alan Levine  join us remotely to talk about SPLOTs.

They killed it, and the discussion provided the framework for the rest of the day, which was to highlight the power of creating application-based templates through Installatron, and playing with what that looks like with the various SPLOTs we’ve already integrated in Wake Sites, such as TRU Collector, TRU Writer, various portfolio templates, and more. 

The workshop was really heartening for me because sometimes even I sometimes wonder if Domains is the best way at some of these things. And while there are always better ways, my trip to Wake Forest reminded me that the infrastructure Reclaim is providing and supporting is fundamental to framing a digital transformation on campus that is premised on equipping people to both understand and take more direct ownership of the work they publish on the web. A welcome reminder, and a special thank you to Carrie Johnston for making it happened, bringing us there, and being awesome.


*If I ever have the time and headspace I’m gonna try and piece that list together.