OERxDomains: Discord

Previous OERxDomains posts:

+ Early Planning & Display
+ Artwork, Aesthetic, and Admiration

One of my favorite parts about OERxDomains21 would be our use of Discord. In our efforts to bring communities (and time zones) together we knew we would need a space to talk beyond the 20-30 min presentation sessions. A robust, flexible space that could handle a lot of of simultaneous conversations. Like Slack, but not so corporate.

I wanted something where participants could connect outside of sessions, to introduce themselves, hangout if they wanted, share resources, and even ask for help. After our experience with Digital Ocean’s Deploy conference, we were already one step ahead of the game by seeing the potential of Discord in a conference space. My mindset in testing Discord for OERxDomains was to basically begin building it out until I found something wrong with it. But long story short, I didn’t. :)

I had heard that Discord was big in the gaming community, but it was completely new for me. Their documentation is thankfully pretty fantastic, so I hung out there for a while as I was getting started. And as with anything I test for a larger audience, I took advantage of these beginner moments to record my questions, first impressions, and instincts. Priority #1: it needed to simple and easy to use, and any clear question marks needed to have proper guidance.

Overall, I found the process for creating channels, categories, and roles to be quite simple. I also really loved that I could alter permissions on a granular level. Here’s a look at the overall setup:

Roles

The main roles created were admin, staff, chairs, and participants. The other roles were Discord bots, and we’ll get to those in a bit. :) Admins had access to everything behind the scenes. This was a private role, and they could go so far as to delete the server if they wanted to. The staff role was for all Reclaim and ALT folks that were helping run the conference. They had access to all channels and could do things like create new channels, change permissions, and block users. Chairs were for conference committee members, presenters or really anyone that needed Discord’s “priority speaker” permissions. They were able to control mic settings in voice channels for all users. And finally participants was the default role that everyone was given. They could change their own personal settings but did not have access over anyone else’s.

The hierarchy of roles proved to be crucial for the overall success of how Discord functioned. As a result, we could have a private, staff-only channel to allow us to chat behind-the-scenes while the conference was going on. It kept conversations out of emails and Twitter DMs which was a huge plus.

Channels

How it looked for Participants
How it looked for Admins

We decided to organize the channels by Information, Discussions, and Voice categories. Of the various channels, announcements, guidelines, and hashtag were read-only. I didn’t want important information getting lost amongst conversation, and hashtag was just a live sync of the #OERxDomains21 twitter hashtag. The read-only feature was really helpful for routing conversation where we wanted it to go. The channels themselves are pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll put a description of them below:

  • Announcements: Latest updates about the #OERxDomains21 conference
  • Help-Desk: live help from Conference staff; we monitored this channel in shifts
  • Guidelines: conference guidelines, code of conduct
  • Introductions: a space for participants to introduce themselves, share their conference badge, talk about why they were here
  • Resources: a space to share slides, additional links and resources after presentations or other discussions
  • Domains21: live discussions/ Q&A around prerecorded D21 sessions
  • Hallway-Chats: miscellaneous conversations about anything
  • Hashtag: a live sync of the #OERxDomains twitter hashtag
  • KaraOERke: an impromptu channel created halfway through to talk about the live karaoke performances :)
  • Chairs-Only & Staff-Only: behind the scenes communication with different groups
  • Open Spaces sessions: a voice channel for each session
  • Voice Channels: miscellaneous hangout spaces
  • Action-Log: automatic admin notifications each time someone joined/left the server

Seeing Discord in use like this was one of the more rewarding moments of the conference for me. I couldn’t help my self from taking a few screenshots! Loved that people to advantage of the voice channels to hangout and chat, and I especially love that Discord keeps that transparent so anyone can join. My only real critique: for an event of this size, the 25 person cap on voice channels did prove a bit difficult at point. Knowing this, we should have used stage channels where the cap was a risk.

Bots + Automated Rules

I also had some integrations & automated rules that I built into Discord as we needed them, which is why you’ll see these Discord Bots added to the server under the roles section:

MEE6

I wanted to get a notification when anyone joined or left the server. I was able to do this with the welcome message section in the Mee6 bot:

This is also where I table to assign the participants role to everyone by default when they joined. Again, this is crucial, because otherwise the users would be thrown into a generic everyone role that didn’t abide by my customized permissions.

Titan Embeds

The Titan Embeds bot was used to embed discord channels on the conference display site for prerecorded Domains21 sessions:

Discord doesn’t have a ton of options for embedding, so this Titan bot (which is technically still in Beta) was a bit of a gamble. But it ended up doing the job, and Michael’s CSS magic made it that much better. This is an area I hope to clean up in future renditions given Discord names don’t come in clean, and I’d love to be able to add our branding to it. Even still, I’m very thankful for how it turned out and think that it made a huge difference for how the conference could be experienced.

Zapier

Zapier is probably where I had the most fun… this is where I put together custom rules when Discord bots were lacking.

^I created a Zap in order to send tweets with the #OERxDomains21 hashtag to Discord, and wrote about how to do this here.

My next head scratcher and frequent request from others was to be able to schedule messages throughout the event. Welcome, time for a break, join us for the keynote type of messages that are important to send, but easy to forget in the moment when you’re pulled in 100 different directions. Additionally, I wanted a way to write to folks from a generic “event” name as opposed to always writing from my personal role. And the idea of creating a separate account and logging in and out was a non-starter.

Slack made sense for me since I knew I could schedule messages there, but I could also send out messages in real-time, too. I’m sure there are other ways to schedule messages for Discord, but the bots I found were clunky and given I already have slack open everyday, it was an easy choice.

To start, I created private slack channels (one for each location that I wanted to post to). Next, I went to Zapier and chose my app (Slack) and my Trigger Event (posting messages):

Next I logged into my Slack account when prompted and then chose my private slack channel:

I sent a message in the private slack channel, and then tested that Zapier was able to find that message. Once that was successful, I moved onto the second half of the Zap: publishing to Discord. I chose my app (Discord) & action (Send Channel Message):

I then logged into Discord when prompted and then set up the look of my custom message. This took a bit of tweaking, but here’s what I landed on:

Once enabling the Zap, here’s how messages looked from Slack to Discord:

Scheduling messages then happened completely in Slack. At first I was testing out Slack’s reminder feature, but this was clunky, hard to follow, and left a lot of room for error. I ended up using a Slack App called Send It Later which was an absolute godsend. I believe there’s a premium version, but the free trial was long enough that it worked perfectly for what I needed:

I used this for both the Discord #Announcements channel as well as the #Domains21 channel to alert folks of upcoming sessions:

^And because Slack is wonderful, I was even able to format my messages with italics!

Finally, I had to set the record straight when everyone thought the bot was automated. :)

Custom Emojis

One final note to share about Discord before I close– the ability to add custom emojis makes the experience that much more branded and fun. This is under Server Settings > Emoji:

The emojis were then used throughout as reactions or otherwise, and it was such a nice touch.

Whew.

Ok, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, thank you for reading! Feel free drop any questions in the comments below & I’d be happy share my thoughts or clarify. I had such a blast with this conference, and I can’t wait to use these tools for future events. Speaking of which, our Domain of One’s Own virtual Workshop is taking place next week and we hope to see you there!

OERxDomains: Discord

Previous OERxDomains posts:

+ Early Planning & Display
+ Artwork, Aesthetic, and Admiration

One of my favorite parts about OERxDomains21 would be our use of Discord. In our efforts to bring communities (and time zones) together we knew we would need a space to talk beyond the 20-30 min presentation sessions. A robust, flexible space that could handle a lot of of simultaneous conversations. Like Slack, but not so corporate.

I wanted something where participants could connect outside of sessions, to introduce themselves, hangout if they wanted, share resources, and even ask for help. After our experience with Digital Ocean’s Deploy conference, we were already one step ahead of the game by seeing the potential of Discord in a conference space. My mindset in testing Discord for OERxDomains was to basically begin building it out until I found something wrong with it. But long story short, I didn’t. :)

I had heard that Discord was big in the gaming community, but it was completely new for me. Their documentation is thankfully pretty fantastic, so I hung out there for a while as I was getting started. And as with anything I test for a larger audience, I took advantage of these beginner moments to record my questions, first impressions, and instincts. Priority #1: it needed to simple and easy to use, and any clear question marks needed to have proper guidance.

Overall, I found the process for creating channels, categories, and roles to be quite simple. I also really loved that I could alter permissions on a granular level. Here’s a look at the overall setup:

Roles

The main roles created were admin, staff, chairs, and participants. The other roles were Discord bots, and we’ll get to those in a bit. :) Admins had access to everything behind the scenes. This was a private role, and they could go so far as to delete the server if they wanted to. The staff role was for all Reclaim and ALT folks that were helping run the conference. They had access to all channels and could do things like create new channels, change permissions, and block users. Chairs were for conference committee members, presenters or really anyone that needed Discord’s “priority speaker” permissions. They were able to control mic settings in voice channels for all users. And finally participants was the default role that everyone was given. They could change their own personal settings but did not have access over anyone else’s.

The hierarchy of roles proved to be crucial for the overall success of how Discord functioned. As a result, we could have a private, staff-only channel to allow us to chat behind-the-scenes while the conference was going on. It kept conversations out of emails and Twitter DMs which was a huge plus.

Channels

How it looked for Participants
How it looked for Admins

We decided to organize the channels by Information, Discussions, and Voice categories. Of the various channels, announcements, guidelines, and hashtag were read-only. I didn’t want important information getting lost amongst conversation, and hashtag was just a live sync of the #OERxDomains21 twitter hashtag. The read-only feature was really helpful for routing conversation where we wanted it to go. The channels themselves are pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll put a description of them below:

  • Announcements: Latest updates about the #OERxDomains21 conference
  • Help-Desk: live help from Conference staff; we monitored this channel in shifts
  • Guidelines: conference guidelines, code of conduct
  • Introductions: a space for participants to introduce themselves, share their conference badge, talk about why they were here
  • Resources: a space to share slides, additional links and resources after presentations or other discussions
  • Domains21: live discussions/ Q&A around prerecorded D21 sessions
  • Hallway-Chats: miscellaneous conversations about anything
  • Hashtag: a live sync of the #OERxDomains twitter hashtag
  • KaraOERke: an impromptu channel created halfway through to talk about the live karaoke performances :)
  • Chairs-Only & Staff-Only: behind the scenes communication with different groups
  • Open Spaces sessions: a voice channel for each session
  • Voice Channels: miscellaneous hangout spaces
  • Action-Log: automatic admin notifications each time someone joined/left the server

Seeing Discord in use like this was one of the more rewarding moments of the conference for me. I couldn’t help my self from taking a few screenshots! Loved that people to advantage of the voice channels to hangout and chat, and I especially love that Discord keeps that transparent so anyone can join. My only real critique: for an event of this size, the 25 person cap on voice channels did prove a bit difficult at point. Knowing this, we should have used stage channels where the cap was a risk.

Bots + Automated Rules

I also had some integrations & automated rules that I built into Discord as we needed them, which is why you’ll see these Discord Bots added to the server under the roles section:

MEE6

I wanted to get a notification when anyone joined or left the server. I was able to do this with the welcome message section in the Mee6 bot:

This is also where I table to assign the participants role to everyone by default when they joined. Again, this is crucial, because otherwise the users would be thrown into a generic everyone role that didn’t abide by my customized permissions.

Titan Embeds

The Titan Embeds bot was used to embed discord channels on the conference display site for prerecorded Domains21 sessions:

Discord doesn’t have a ton of options for embedding, so this Titan bot (which is technically still in Beta) was a bit of a gamble. But it ended up doing the job, and Michael’s CSS magic made it that much better. This is an area I hope to clean up in future renditions given Discord names don’t come in clean, and I’d love to be able to add our branding to it. Even still, I’m very thankful for how it turned out and think that it made a huge difference for how the conference could be experienced.

Zapier

Zapier is probably where I had the most fun… this is where I put together custom rules when Discord bots were lacking.

^I created a Zap in order to send tweets with the #OERxDomains21 hashtag to Discord, and wrote about how to do this here.

My next head scratcher and frequent request from others was to be able to schedule messages throughout the event. Welcome, time for a break, join us for the keynote type of messages that are important to send, but easy to forget in the moment when you’re pulled in 100 different directions. Additionally, I wanted a way to write to folks from a generic “event” name as opposed to always writing from my personal role. And the idea of creating a separate account and logging in and out was a non-starter.

Slack made sense for me since I knew I could schedule messages there, but I could also send out messages in real-time, too. I’m sure there are other ways to schedule messages for Discord, but the bots I found were clunky and given I already have slack open everyday, it was an easy choice.

To start, I created private slack channels (one for each location that I wanted to post to). Next, I went to Zapier and chose my app (Slack) and my Trigger Event (posting messages):

Next I logged into my Slack account when prompted and then chose my private slack channel:

I sent a message in the private slack channel, and then tested that Zapier was able to find that message. Once that was successful, I moved onto the second half of the Zap: publishing to Discord. I chose my app (Discord) & action (Send Channel Message):

I then logged into Discord when prompted and then set up the look of my custom message. This took a bit of tweaking, but here’s what I landed on:

Once enabling the Zap, here’s how messages looked from Slack to Discord:

Scheduling messages then happened completely in Slack. At first I was testing out Slack’s reminder feature, but this was clunky, hard to follow, and left a lot of room for error. I ended up using a Slack App called Send It Later which was an absolute godsend. I believe there’s a premium version, but the free trial was long enough that it worked perfectly for what I needed:

I used this for both the Discord #Announcements channel as well as the #Domains21 channel to alert folks of upcoming sessions:

^And because Slack is wonderful, I was even able to format my messages with italics!

Finally, I had to set the record straight when everyone thought the bot was automated. :)

Custom Emojis

One final note to share about Discord before I close– the ability to add custom emojis makes the experience that much more branded and fun. This is under Server Settings > Emoji:

The emojis were then used throughout as reactions or otherwise, and it was such a nice touch.

Whew.

Ok, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, thank you for reading! Feel free drop any questions in the comments below & I’d be happy share my thoughts or clarify. I had such a blast with this conference, and I can’t wait to use these tools for future events. Speaking of which, our Domain of One’s Own virtual Workshop is taking place next week and we hope to see you there!

OERxDomains: Artwork, Aesthetic, and Admiration

Next stop on the OERxDomains Blogging train: the Artwork. Bryan Mathers‘ work is simply too good to not to talk about for a full post. You can also read Jim’s post about the conference aesthetic here.

First up, the different logos. The color bars reminded me a lot of the painted bars we did for Reclaim Video, and also the header images for Domains19. It was fun to carry that through here:

Building on the tv/video metaphor even further, the most widely used images for the event were undoubtedly the red tv boxes:

We knew that we wanted the conference schedule to embody an TV Guide in which conference participants were flipping through ‘channels’ (i.e. tracks) to watch the various presentations:

Even more, we wanted participants to feel fully immersed in the conference, almost like they were jumping into the tv screen themselves to participate. To join along, and make it a full-blown community production:

All presentations were embedded in the logo’s TV frame to help with this.

This also let to animated jingles that quickly became the intros and outros for each ‘episode’:

^Om Nom Nom
^Musical Audio
^The Swoosh

It also led to a whole other branch of neon awesomeness:

^OERxDomains Neon
^Neon People

We wanted folks to create a virtual media badge to share when introducing themselves & talking about the conference. The community artwork that came as a result was gorgeous:

The OERxDomains21 ‘swag’ came next, naturally. (Items are still available for purchase on the shop page.)

Gearing up for Day 2 of the conference

When my OERxDomains package arrived
Merch making its way to Reclaim HQ

And finally, just this morning I sat down with Jim and Maren to reflect on the vision for OERxDomains and so much more. Feel free to watch below:

OERxDomains: Early Planning and Display Site

OERxDomains21. Where to begin. Easily a career highlight. Hard to put into words.

I suppose I’ll start at the beginning because I do think its worth having everything documented on my little corner of the internet. That takes us back to at some point last fall, knowing that our biennial Domains event was coming around the corner. We knew that we would want to do something, but also knew that it would have to be pared down significantly compared to what we’ve done in previous years. I think the ALT team was in a similar boat regarding their annual OER conference, so after a couple of brainstorming conversations we decided to join forces and create an epic online event that catered to both communities. I’ve been an attendee and speaker at the OER conferences since 2018 (you can read my about my previous experiences here, here, and here) and have grown to look forward to it every year. It was an honor to get to work along Maren Deepwell and the rest of the of the ALT team, as well as be announced as a co-chair alongside Jim Groom, Joe Wilson, Louise Drumm, and Lou Mycroft.

In combining forces between OER & Domains, we knew that we wanted the themes for the event to reflect the interests and goals of both communities, while also acknowledging that 2020 was not normal. Here are the themes that were decided:

  1. Openness, care, and joy in the times of pandemic
  2. Open Education responses to surveillance technologies and data ownership in education
  3. Open in Action: open teaching, educational practices and resources, how you might be using Domains and other tools
  4. Shifts in agency and creativity as empowerment of learners and educators
  5. Open Source Tools: infrastructure, cloud environments, targeted teaching tools

Around the same time that we were in the early stages of planning, Tim, Jim and I spoke at DigitalOcean’s virtual Deploy conference with Kaysi Holman and Inés Vañó García at CUNY and DO’s Erin Glass. You can view our presentation here & you can read Jim’s post about it here.

The conference and speaker experience at Deploy was super seamless, easy to watch, and required minimal effort to engage. Our session was prerecorded and branded for the event in StreamYard. StreamYard allows you to have moderators that sit behind the scenes to effectively produce videos on the fly, so all layout changes, screen-shares, and intro/outro jingles are added in real time. The sessions were then scheduled to play or “go live” at a given time, and speakers were told to be around for Q&A in Discord where all event conversation took place. This allowed speakers to engage with other participants without the added pressure of presenting live. What’s more, Discord felt casual and collaborative as a participant. In a world of zoom fatigue, the Deploy conference was refreshing, and we knew that we wanted to take pointers from it as we were thinking about delivery for OERxDomains.

I also find it a bit poetic that ^this quote from Tim stuck out to me during our DigitalOcean Presentation, and our tagline for OERxDomains21 became Open Community Production:

(I’ll save the artwork for another post, because wow.)

Reclaim’s role in the OERxDomains21 event, beyond building content for the Domains21 track, was to think through the online delivery. Our goals/big ticket items were as follows:

  • It had to work reliably. We couldn’t afford site crashes, slow loads, playback errors, etc. It had to be live and online the whole time.
  • It needed redundancy. In the event that YouTube or StreamYard went down, how would we communicate with participants?
  • It needed different levels of engagement to accommodate “the passive watcher” to “the live tweeter” and everyone in between.
  • It needed a sense of community and connection. How could we think beyond the 8 hour zoom conference where everyone has their camera turned off?

Of course there were other logistical priorities like working across various time zones and being available as an archive after the fact, but overall, the big requirements for me screamed flexibility and preparedness. We needed to be prepared for just about anything while also offering flexibility in the way that the conference was consumed.

This ultimately led to a setup in which an OER Track (or 2) and Domains Track were running alongside each other. The OER Track would consist primarily of live presentations, whereas the Domains track would be prerecorded, scheduled talks. This would allow the Reclaim team to be more available during the actual event for support and engagement with the participants.

All sessions (both live and prerecorded) were to be produced in StreamYard for consistent branding and behind-the-scenes management. Prerecorded sessions would save in YouTube as unlisted links and would be scheduled to play publicly with YouTube Premier (a last minute find from Tim). Live presentations would also take place in StreamYard and would broadcast live to YouTube.

Participants could comment on YouTube Live videos in the chat section, and those comments would pull into the StreamYard window for speakers to see. Conversations for prerecorded sessions, as well as other miscellaneous discussions we referred to as Hallway Chats, would take place in Discord.

To prevent people from getting confused on where to go for what chats, sessions and tracks, we would need a One Stop Shop. Enter the headless OERxDomains21.org: our event schedule, video player, chat embedder, session archive, time converter, the list goes on.

The masterminds behind the headless Display Site were Tom Woodward and Michael Branson Smith, who wrote about his work here. I’ll save more details about OERxDomains in future posts, but for now enjoy our Reclaim Today episode with Tom & MBS where they talk about the development of the display site:

Domains 19: Part 2

If you missed Domains 19: Part 1, feel free to read that post first for an overview of the first day of the conference!

Day two of Domains19 was just as great if not better than day one. Martin Hawksey kicked off the day with his first-ever keynote entitled Minority Report: One Nation Under CCTV. The eerie talk was a great bookend to Chris and sava’s talk that we had just listened to the previous day. sava and Chris told futuristic sci-fi stories of surveillance, discriminatory practices, disruptions of privacy, etc. that could/would embed themselves into the world we live in. The following morning, Martin rounded out those discussions by pulling up specific, very real examples of those discriminatory practices and disruptions of privacy happening in the world today. His shared his personal experiences with Google Analytics and facial recognition in real-time on stage, played clips from Minority Report and They Live, and referenced article after article of facial recognition in 2019. A quote from Martin that has resonated with me: “Your face has become a service.”

Similar to day one, I had to do a bit of running around and prepping for the next phase of the day so I missed a large chunk of the presentations that followed Martin’s talk. (I’m planning on watching their recordings over the next several days/weeks!) That said, I did have a chance to pop into a few presentations to take pictures for the @domainsconf twitter page, and enjoyed the above scenes.

During lunch, part of the Reclaim crew briefed the audience (most of whom are DoOO/Managed Hosting institutions) with a “here’s what we’re working on” chat. This included an overview of our journey with making our site/products more accessible (Justin), custom installers and new tools that we’re adding (Tim), how we’re working to organize our support team (Meredith), and the work we’d like to do over the coming months to showcase community work (Jim).

When recapping with the team after the conference, we talked about whether or not a 10-min lunch session was the best format for something like this. In the future, I’d love to offer a dedicated Q&A session where those that want to attend can interact a little more by offering feedback, communicating concerns, and asking targeted questions to the entire Reclaim crew. I attended a session like this at a cPanel conference in 2016 and really appreciated the opportunity to be heard by cPanel developers. If there was a way at the Domains Conference to pull this off, I’d love to make it happen. The other side of that though is that time is so limited during a packed two-day event, and I wouldn’t want a Reclaim session to interfere with or compete with the well-earned time of other concurrent sessions. This is definitely something I want to continue thinking through, and if you have any suggestions I’m all ears. :)

It was an absolute pleasure to hear from Amy Collier after lunch during her keynote, Ambitious Futures for (Digital) Education: Perspectives from Tropicalia. (Her transcript is available here & here.) While our first two keynotes called to light the harsh realities that we currently face regarding surveillance and privacy, Amy explored questions of creative resistance, agency, literacy, and solidarity through the lens of Brazilian music and artwork. She ended the keynote with a strong call to action: 1) be intentionally and extraordinarily cross-disciplinary, 2) make space for students to take risks & be willing to explore one’s freedoms and demolish one’s restrictions, 3) embrace open practices that make anthroprophagia possible, and 4) invert colonizer/colonized relationships in education. It’s not every day that you see the Tropicália Movement pulled into an edtech conference, and I’m forever grateful to Amy for having the courage to speak on a topic so close to home.

All in all, this was an awesome conference and a great “round 2” of Domains. It was hardly perfect, and there’s always room for improvement, but overall I’m proud of the event that we put together. I’m proud that we were able to create a space that allowed 80+ attendees to share their stories, hear new perspectives, and foster important conversations about the higher educational world we live in and beyond.

Domains 2019 – Pt. 1

The second Domains Conference has been in the works since last September, so it feels a bit surreal now to be back home, one week later, writing that Domains19 has come and gone.

I’m not exactly in a position yet to even begin unpacking all of the conversational goodness that happened in Durham, North Carolina over those two days. I was in hostess/event planner mode for the large majority of the event, so my reflections to the concurrent sessions will likely happen over the next few weeks as I watch recordings. However my in-person experience was still slightly magical, and I’ll do my best to share highlights below:

I arrived in Durham on Saturday evening after a delayed (and then delayed again) series of flights and began prepping right away. I met with our 21c Event Manager and toured the venue space for the first time since last September. That was a bit nerve-wracking if I’m being honest. I had taken as many pictures as I could when I originally saw the space, no doubt, but still had this looming fear that I spent months planning an event around a made-up vision for the space, all the while misremembering how the space would actually function. If that makes sense. My fears were immediately put to rest, however. The 21c Museum Hotel never disappoints!

After spending way too long talking about extension cords, chair placements, light switches (yadda yadda, etcetera etcetera) I quickly put my bags in my room and walked outside with one goal: to get lost. LOL, if only I was kidding. I walked pretty much every street and alleyway around and near 21c with the sole purpose of exploring the area so I could answer questions if needed. I retraced my steps to Monday Night’s event space, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then went to bed early.

The rest of the Reclaim team got to town on Sunday morning, and before we knew it we were unpacking the van and setting up the registration table, t-shirt table, art installations, and various signages. And, of course, we had to test out the arcade games to make sure they were working properly.

One of the major differences in how we carried out Domains17 vs. Domains19 was how we organized internally before and during the event. In 2017, there were so many helping hands (thankfully) and so many things to do but everyone ended up working on top of each other instead of spreading out and manning different stations. Even further, no one knew where anyone else was without going on a wild goose chase. Granted, we had delegated certain things like who would be keeping time during concurrent sessions, but that still only meant that each person knew where they were supposed to be but couldn’t reference where anyone else would be.

Enter Domains 2019 Rundown. The Rundown was an annoyingly precise schedule of everything that needed to happen, by the hour, from setup on Sunday night to breakdown on Tuesday evening. It had internal notes & reminders (sheesh) and was color-coded by person (yikes). It became a running joke by the end, to make sure everyone would “consult the Rundown!” and the Reclaim Team will likely chuckle that I’m blogging about it now. But in reality it proved to be extremely helpful, and I consulted it more often than I care to admit over the two days. That’s definitely something I plan on carrying to a Domains 2021 if that happens.

The conference began with a bang as sava saheli singh and Chris Gilliard opened with a compelling keynote that pushed the audience to think about discriminatory practices and imaginative possibilities for edtech through the use of storytelling. As Joe Murphy put it, the presentation was hardly a presentation at all, but a string of futuristic sci-fi stories that got wheels turning from the get-go. The Domains conference has always stood behind creative, experimental ways of “conferencing” and I think these two presenters/artists/storytellers pulled it off.

The Art Fair, which followed Chris and sava’s keynote, was absolutely one of the biggest highlights of the conference for me. We did something similar for D17 with the Domains Fair Showcase in which attendees were invited to engage with their peers in digital demonstrations of projects happening on their respective campuses. Differently, the D19 Art Fair was less of a poster booth session and much more of an interactive art display that dealt with one of the conference themes. Both the D17 Showcase and the D19 Art Fair were great for different reasons, but I personally enjoyed this one more simply because it felt more creative. I mean, these artists brought their ‘A’ games. Here are some of my favorite scenes from the Twitterverse:

And one cannot mention art at Domains19 without pointing to Ryan Seslow‘s incredibly cool keynote art installation:

All 360 degrees of this piece required the attention of the viewer. I had the pleasure of spending a few silent moments during sessions to walk around and explore, and I feel grateful for that. Ryan, Tim, and Jim really outdid themselves with putting this together. More details about the installation can be found in Jim’s post, 5 Min Tour of Reclaim HQ.

After the completion of the Art Fair and a series of attendee presentations, the entire group met back in the Main Gallery for lunch & quick viewing of sava & Tim Maughan’s Screening Surveillance film, A Model Employee. The Big Data Surveillance project has produced a trio of short sci-fi films, all with extremely ‘Black-Mirror-meets-EdTech’ vibes, so the lunch viewing complimented the dystopian stories from Chris & sava’s keynote quite nicely. We were also able to put the films on a loop in one of the upstairs galleries which ended up making a super cool permanent art installation. This was such a different way to ingest conference themes, and I’m so happy we were able to feature these films throughout the event.

I also found myself taking a moment on the afternoon of Day 1 to think back to where I was exactly two years prior: Physically- OKC for Domains17; Professionally- Operations Manager at Reclaim, and wanting more interactions with DoOO/Managed Hosting schools; Personally- recently moved from Madrid to Fredericksburg to begin working at Reclaim HQ. When lined up like that, in combination the mirror selfies, I can’t believe how much has changed! I’m certainly not the same woman from the 2017 photo, and it’s cool that the Domains Conference has become such a large cornerstone for me to track that growth.

Judith grabbed this awesome pano of Monday night’s event

After wrapping up sessions on Day 1 and taking a dinner break, the D19 crew made their way to Durham’s finest: Quarter Horse Bar & Arcade! It was fun to connect with everyone after the first full day of Domains, and then pressing pause on the conversation to go play an arcade game. :)

I call this one, The Ladies of Reclaim

If you’ve read this far, congrats. If you’re interested in reading more, I’ve got a Day Two post coming soon!

Amy Collier on Wakefulness, Agency, Ownership, and Trust

If you’ve been following recent updates around Domains19, you’ll know that we’ll be hosting quite a few keynotes this year to round out the event. Jim blogged about the following featured keynote presentations already:

Chris Gilliard & sava saheli singh will aim to complicate our conversations around futuristic technology as it relates to diversity, drawing on themes of accessibility and ownership.

Martin Hawksey will explore the ethical boundaries of the technology we have come to take for granted, focusing on privacy & surveillance and ownership.

Ryan Seslow has recently created a series of work called Communicating my Deaf and Hard of Hearing Self. His keynote at Domains 19 will be an extension of this in the form of art exhibits and installations.

image via

I now have the pleasure of introducing our fifth and final presenter, Amy Collier, Associate Provost for Digital Learning at Middlebury College, who will take on the pedagogical piece of the future of technology as it relates to Surveillance, Ownership, and Accessibility in the classroom. Collier leads Middlebury’s strategic vision for digital learning and oversees a group (DLINQ) that works with faculty, staff, and students to explore and question the roles digital technologies play in education. Her work surrounding Digital Detox and After Surveillance is inspiring, and we’re excited to see what she’ll bring to the table in June. Here’s an abstract for her upcoming talk, Wakefulness, Agency, Ownership, and Trust:

What does teaching and learning look like when we take seriously our students’ privacy and agency? This is a question we wrestle with in my group at Middlebury, Digital Learning and Inquiry, and I imagine this will feel like a familiar or even front-and-center concern for others at Domains. Surveillance and other troubling practices enter our teaching in seemingly benign ways, with mostly good intentions. This presentation will ask us to reconsider those practices and explore how pedagogy is transformed when we center the ideas of wakefulness, agency, ownership, and trust (ooh and freedom, and possibility, and love, and…and…and…). There will be a lot of expertise in the room and I hope to draw that expertise out with opportunities for us to move between examples of work that is currently happening and speculative futures for education.

Stay tuned for more announcements about Domains 19 (the schedule is coming next!) and go ahead and get to registering! Those early bird prices won’t last forever!

Featured image via Creative Commons.

Domains ’19: 21c Durham

With the Domains 2019 conference location finally released yesterday, I thought it would only make sense to share a few photos of the venue. I visited the space back at the beginning of September and it’s been so hard to keep quiet! If you can believe it, 21c Museum Hotel in Durham is arguably cooler than the 21c in OKC, but shh, don’t tell Domains ’17.

First thing’s first: the museum hotel has been built out of an old reconstructed bank, so you’ll find this push & pull between creative art installations and corporate architecture throughout your entire stay. 

I absolutely love that you can find art at every turn– whether you’re waiting on the couch in the hotel lobby, sneaking a penguin into your hotel room, or grabbing a bite to eat at Counting House

Similar to Domains ’17, presenters at Domains ’19 will speak in/around art galleries like the ones pictured below:

Even the stairwells have their own installations, which I like to call Head in the Clouds.

Without a doubt, I’m incredibly pumped for Domains ’19. Taking the year off from conference planning sure was nice, but it feels good to be back in full force with the bigger & badder conference theme, Back to the Future. I’m looking forward to blending in our Domains content with that of our way-cool conference venue, and am anxious to see what our crazy-talented artist friends come up with.

My personal hope for Domains ’19 is more or less identical to the expectations that I had for my 21c visit: to have an interactive experience, to be challenged by what’s in front of me, and to leave with a greater appreciation of the extreme talents of others. I was impressed in September, and now I can’t wait for next June.

To stay in the know about all things Domains ’19, make sure you’re subscribed to notifications.

Cleaning up Domains 17 with Sitesucker

It’s hardly news at this point, but Reclaim Hosting isn’t doing a Domains conference this year. We loved Domains 17 (and are currently mulling over a Domains 19) but we deemed 2018 as a gap year a couple months back. This has meant that the conference website, domains.reclaimhosting.com, was just sort of sitting there with content that is now close to a year old. I was also growing rather tired of logging in every now and then and making sure all plugins, themes, and softwares were up to date. What’s even more, the Domains17 site was sitting on domains.reclaimhosting.com, meaning if we were having a Domains19, things would obviously need to be shuffled around.

On an unrelated (or is it?) note, I’m headed to California in a couple of weeks to take part in Stanford University’s Preservation Workshop to chat about archiving digital projects and possible strategic partnerships with preservationists and technologists. So to say the least, I’ve had archiving on the brain over the last week or so. As part of my preparation for the workshop, I’ve been wanting to play around with and explore some of the digital archiving tools that are already out there. Though I’ve recommended SiteSucker to many Reclaim users in the past, I’ve never given myself the chance to play it. So between this workshop and the Domains17 site, I thought there would be no better time than the present to get going:

I started first by making the subdomain, domains17.reclaimhosting.com, and then added it as an AddOn domain to the cPanel account where the current conference site resided.

^I then cloned the original conference website from domains.reclaimhosting.com to domains17.reclaimhosting.com using this method.

After confirming that the site was completely up to date and loading securely on the new domain, I opened up the SiteSucker MacOS app that I had previously downloaded. (It’s $4.99 in the App Store, fyi. Kind of a bummer, but I imagine if you do some serious archiving you’d make your money back rather quickly with the amount of time you save. It’s lightning fast.)

^Screenshot of what the SiteSucker window looked like while it was working.

I simply entered the URL and pressed enter. Within two minutes it was done! I pressed the folder icon (top bar, middle) and could immediately see all the WordPress site files that had been translated to Static HTML. Once having the files on my local hard drive, I closed out of SiteSucker and opened up my FTP client. (My personal favorite is Cyberduck.)

I navigated to the domains17.reclaimhosting.com directory, removed the existing cloned WordPress files, and uploaded my new static HTML files.

I refreshed my browser and boom! The site now loads beautifully (and quickly!) over HTML only. I had an issue with one of my visual builder buttons still linking back to the old domain, but that was an easy fix. I used Chrome’s inspect feature to figure out where the link was located in the code and then used the command+find tool to fix it in my File Manager.

As my final step of maintenance cleaning, I created a redirect so that all visits to domains.reclaimhosting.com be redirected to domains17.reclaimhosting.com for time being. This way I can begin to alter the content that currently sits at domains.reclaimhosting.com, while simultaneously familiarizing visitors with the new domain.

From start to finish, this took less than ten minutes complete.  Not a bad for a little afternoon project. I’m excited to continue playing around with Sitesucker, but very impressed so far.

Critiquing Domains 17

#Domains17 has been over for about a week now, and I’m only now getting to a place where I feel like I can write about it. There are already a few really good reflection posts about the event (touching on metaphors, belonging, professional development, #notaconference, & newness, to name a few) and I’m really enjoying reading them all. Though I can hardly take credit for the brilliant conversations and displays for forward-thinking projects that folks brought to the table last week, I do like to think that my work over the last few months was able to help make this possible. And for that, I am honored and grateful.Due to the nature of where I’d like to take this post, there was another reason that I wanted to push back publication: feedback entries. At the end of the conference, (and sort of on a whim, mind you) we decided to put together a quick survey in hopes for some brutally honest feedback. In writing this, I’m also over here giggling as I’m reminded of Sundi‘s comment to me at the end of day two: in a nutshell, everything rocked except for giving out the feedback form. Haha! (I secretly agree with you, Sundi.) As obnoxious as feedback forms may be, I believe that at least providing the platform to be honest is the crucial first step to improving.But before I share a few of my favorite responses, I wanted to explain briefly how I’d like to angle this post. Since my experience at the conference was mostly behind-the-scenes, I feel like it would be silly for me to try and top what’s already been said about Martha’s brilliant keynote, for example, or the thought provoking conversations that were born from the Domains Fair or Concurrent Sessions. Instead, I’d like to talk more about the behind-the-scenes complaints & critiques– both my own and the ones I received over the two-day event. And in the spirit of improving, whether for a “volume two” or just to better ourselves as human beings, talking honestly and openly about what didn’t work is important.

The -Isms.

Just going to jump straight in here. At the risk of getting rant-like, I believe ‘the -isms’ deserve a continuing, ongoing conversation, always. More specifically, I want to speak to racism, sexism, and ageism in the Ed-Tech field. This is not in reference solely to the Domains 17 event, but I did feel susceptible to it in OKC, and I know others felt it as well. I feel very proud of how we set the tone for Domains 17, and admire Adam’s opening words that encouraged community, friendliness, and openness. But we could have/should have done more before the conference. Secondly. As a fail-safe reminder: Under no circumstances should Respect be in correlation with age, gender, or skin color. Asking questions or making comments that highlight not the strengths, achievements, or thoughts of an individual, but their age, gender, or skin color instead is offensive and unnecessary.

The Feedback

Commenting on Concurrent Sessions:

Given that multiple sessions were running in parallel, it would be great if presenters wrote up a few sentences about their sessions to be included in the Agenda/Itinerary. I would certainly take a close look at those before choosing which session to join.

^This is so, so valid. I agree– I think that somewhere along the way I should have added abstracts to the website for folks to view in advance. I also believe that setting up a poster-size itinerary in front of each gallery with an itinerary specific to that space would have been super helpful. I found that a lot of folks didn’t really carry their itinerary around, but would instead come up to me and ask, “What’s in there?” as they point to a gallery. I would then shrug as I scrambled through everything I was holding to find my own folded copy of the itinerary with the insanely tiny font. (Who let me get away with that?)

Commenting on evening plans:

As a student who is not of age to drink yet, there was no incentive for me to attend at all. I felt that was a large barrier to the socializing for underage students.

^Again, this is valid. Here we are saying, bring your students! Bring all the students! and then making the base activity a rooftop bar scene. One of the main reasons we chose to rent out a space as opposed to taking over someone else’s space was for that reason specifically, so that should have been communicated more thoughtfully. And while we did make sure that all were able to attend all conference events, we could have added cornhole, life-size jenga (the venue offered those options), or other things “to-do” as opposed to just hanging out, drink in hand. Would have loved to have offered a mocktail or two as well (& better local beer options).

I think there was maybe too much attention paid to getting the music up and running. I think most people would have been OK with just the DJ playing some mellow tunes and kicking back and having conversations.

^I believe that this also speaks to something larger: People like to hang out differently. So when you bring everyone together for some good ole’ fashioned forced fun, there are bound to be mixed reviews. I’m a massive introvert, so my version of “hanging out” includes room service & Westworld. Last year the Reclaim team went to a cPanel conference and the venue for their night event was so freaking cool. Yes, there were drinks, but there was also karaoke, bowling, and a ton of space to chill & chat. So maybe a future set up should look a little more extrovert AND introvert-friendly.

The Notes to Self.

+Never assume anything with any venues. No one can read minds.
+Locate all thermostats ahead of time. (*eyeroll*)
+Make a note with venue staff on which doors can and cannot be locked. (*bigger eyeroll*)
+Add a tad more light in the main gathering space.
+The unplanned chunks of time still deserve a little research.
+Carry a pen, scissors, phone charger, and hotel room key everywhere you go.

Who wants a Domains 18? ?