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Reclaim Projects

Gosh, the last few weeks have been quite a whirlwind! I’ve got a few blog posts in the queue that I’m hoping to crank out over the next few days, time willing. Reclaim Hosting is juggling a handful of projects at the moment, and my position as Operations Manager as never felt more relevant. I’m incredibly thankful for the Reclaim Team- especially Meredith (and now Chris!)- for being so stellar on support. Their willingness to take on tickets as allowed me to be able to step back from the support roll slightly to focus more intently on managing the projects below.

Workshop of One’s Own

A large chunk of my time over the last months/weeks have been devoted to our second Workshop of One’s Own. This two-day event built for Domain of One’s Own administrators blends conceptual, technical training with strategies for promotion and community outreach. We’re even bringing in the great Alan Levine to work with participants on SPLOTs. The new outline has proven to be quite popular- we’ve more than doubled our attendee numbers from November! Our Workshop last fall had 6 participants, while 14 people will be joining us in Fredericksburg next week. Check out the list of schools below:

It’s going to be a great line up! I’m very much looking forward to meeting and/or reacquainting with these administrators & technologists in person. For anyone following along, feel free to check out our event itinerary here.

Reclaim Video

I gave an overview of Reclaim Video here, but we’ve come quite a long way since that post was published. Jim has done a great job of documenting our progress thus far, but I thought I’d jump into the conversation as well.  Where to begin! Over the last month and a half, we’ve stripped down the once-office space to the basics, created the logo and have painted the walls black and gray with RGB stripes along the ceiling border. During these renovations, I’ve made it my goal to get us prepared as possible to fill the space as soon as it’s ready. We’ve ordered a storefront sign, carpet, t-shirts & stickers, blank VHS tapes & their assorted labels, hard plastic VHS cases, movie posters, and have begun to build out shelves. The other day, Tim & I even drove to Winchester to pick up a display case & front desk that I found on Craigslist.

I know that I was dragging my feet at the thought of building a physical space for 80’s VHS, but I’ll be the first to admit: it has been a blast to create. I wasn’t even a mere thought in the 80’s, so I don’t personally connect with the ‘art exhibit’ factor that the space will bring (as fascinating as it will be). My personal motivation lies with the idea that we’re building a space dedicated to technology that is not new. VHS is not new. This rings true for Reclaim Hosting’s products as well. When I’ve spoken in person or on video chats with educational institutions, this theme is always brought to the surface. What we’re selling– web hosting– is not new. It’s actually very rudimentary. We offer the space and the building blocks to create and explore. So for me, coming to this discovery over the last few weeks has been very rewarding.

I’m excited to continue designing out the space and adding key elements that will make it feel authentic. (Does anyone have a Commodore 64, by chance?) We’re also asking anyone and everyone to donate their VHS tapes to the cause. So if you’ve got ’em, send ’em!

OER ’18 Conference

While this hasn’t taken precedence as much here recently, the Open Education Research conference is this coming April 18 – 19th. After Workshop of One’s Own has passed, we’ll be switching gears to prepare for our talks for the event. Between Tim, Jim, Meredith, and myself, the Reclaim Team has three conference sessions:

// Presentation – Ghost in a Shell: Moving Beyond LAMP Hosting for Open Source Applications: Read abstract here
// Presentation – Strategies for Supporting Your Community in the Open: Read abstract here
// Workshop – Digital Literacy: Reclaiming Your Space: Read abstract here

In addition to speaking, we’ll also be sponsoring the conference as Reclaim Video. (Reclaim Hosting who?) You can read our sponsorship add here.

RH Website Additions

I’ve also had the opportunity to make minor updates to the main website for Reclaim Hosting. Creating the WordPress Multisite Pricing Calculator was definitely a big one. I cleaned up our footer menu a bit, as well as updated this list. (Fun fact: that community list is my favorite page on the website.)

The Blog feed needed a little work as well. We were having to manually import featured images, which is way too much overhead and kind of defeated the purpose of a feed. So I changed the structure on the back end, tweaked a few theme settings, and voilà:

^We have images! I’d still like for the entries to show excerpts rather than the post, but that will come. Remember, this is a progress post, people!

Lastly, I’ve created a hidden section called Institutional Documents. It’s nothing fancy at the moment, but it’s becoming a great resource for schools looking to work with Reclaim and maybe need to get a jumpstart on the paperwork. I’ve created a digital version of all contracts and questionnaires that we use, and give folks the option create a downloadable .PDF version at the bottom of each page. We’ll still obviously attach hard copy versions to our conversations, but in the spirit of keeping Reclaim open and accessible, I thought this was needed.

Rethinking Workshop of One’s Own

If you missed the summary of the Fall 2017 Workshop, feel free to read it here So we’ve decided to slightly rework the content in the coming Spring ’18 Workshop of One’s Own! While there was nothing wrong with the Fall workshop, it was tailored specifically for the system administrator– the one who would be troubleshooting/supporting their Domain of One’s Own instance from the backend. We wanted attendees to be able to walk away with the knowledge to handle an influx of support tickets and server-side dilemmas of all shapes and sizes. But now that we have DoOO support documentation written and published, we feel comfortable branching out into a more discussion based, hands-on workshop. So for this coming March, we’re tweaking things slightly. We’d like to move away from the super hairy admin tech side and focus more on the people part of DoOO by talking through the following:
What are strategies for promoting DoOO on our campus? How can we approach faculty members who are hesitant of change? How can we tailor our DoOO program to the goals of our institution? Should DoOO look differently for an incoming Freshman compared to a graduating Senior? Where is the balance between managing our community and empowering our community?
Don’t worry– we’re still planning on including a baseline of information to maneuver and support the Domain of One’s Own platform on an administrator level, we just want to scale back on the nitty-gritty details. This will give us time to focus on things like project templates, SPLOTS, real-world case studies for applications other than WordPress, and creating awesome stuff on the spot. We want to unpack cPanel and highlight the potential of the tools available within a Domain of One’s Own environment.

Rough Itinerary:

// Day One 8 – 9: Coffee & Light Breakfast 9 – 5: How best to use each platform; Understanding WHM & WHMCS; DNS Overview; Common Support Troubleshooting; Graduating Exit Strategies // Day Two 8 – 9: Coffee & Light Breakfast 9 – 4: Strategies for Promoting DoOO; Case Studies for Omeka, Scalar & Grav; SPLOTs; Building your own project template

Food Situation:

+ We’ve got breakfast, lunch, & dinner covered on Day 1. We’ll also cover breakfast & lunch on Day 2. + We also may or may not have an escape room planned during lunch Day 1.

More Info:

For more information about the workshop, click here.

Workshop of One’s Own: Spring ’18 Dates

After the success of our first Workshop of One’s Own a few weeks ago, I’m happy to report that we will be hosting another Domain of One’s Own Admin workshop this coming Spring. If you’re new to this discussion, Workshop of One’s Own is a two-day, intensive dive into supporting Domain of One’s Own on campus. This workshop is meant primarily for folks that are administering this project on the ground floor, working with & supporting their communities directly.

For our first workshop, we reached out to folks personally that we knew would not only benefit from the training, but would help us work out beginner’s kinks. Now that we’ve found our groove, Reclaim Hosting would like to open the Spring workshop to the entire Domain of One’s Own community. This event is different than anything we’ve done in the past because it offers very focused, one-on-one training with all Reclaim team members for two full days. For that reason, we will be capping attendance at 10 slots. Attendees come to the table with a variety of strengths, skillsets, and experiences that make for informative and well-rounded sessions. So whether you’re new to the DoOO game or a seasoned player, Workshop of One’s Own has something to offer for everyone. Our plan is to continue offering these workshops each semester while we feel there is still a need, so if spaces fill up before you’ve had a chance to register for Spring ’18, do not fret!

With this announcement, we’re also releasing our new Workshop website, located at workshop.reclaimhosting.com. You’ll always be able to find information here about our latest/upcoming Domain of One’s Own workshops, along with details and FAQs about the event. For those of you who are familiar with this location being home to DoOO Admin docs, those can now be found at workshop.reclaimhosting.com/documentation. All links for individual tutorials are the same.

Quick Facts about Spring ’18 Workshop:

When: March 15 & 16, 2018
Where: Reclaim Hosting’s coworking space in Fredericksburg, Virginia
Cost: $900 per registrant
Slots: 10 spaces given on a first come, first serve basis

Topics Discussed in Depth:

• Conceptualizing WHMCS, WHM, cPanel, SSO
• User FAQs
• Strategies for Supporting DoOO
• Site Migrations & Domain Transfers
• Understanding Installatron
• Hands-on tutorials for WHMCS & WHM
• WordPress Multisite
• Security & Site Hacks
• Graduating Exit Strategies
• Cloudlinux
• cPanel/WHM & WHMCS APIs

Ready to rumble? Reserve your space for the Spring ’18 Workshop.

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Workshop Clip: DNS

Clip from my session on DNS during day one of Reclaim’s Administrator Workshop. During the 45-min talk, we covered DNS basics, types of DNS records and how to edit them, handy DNS tools & strategies, and frequently asked questions.

If you missed the workshop clip on Supporting DoOO, you can find that here.

Documentation guides that I wrote for this talk are linked below:

DNS Full Category
DNS Summary
Handy DNS Tools
DNS Frequently Asked Questions
Editing DNS Records in cPanel
Editing DNS Records in WHM

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Workshop Clip: Supporting DoOO

Clip from my session, Supporting Domain of One’s Own, during day one of Reclaim’s Administrator Workshop. During the 45-min talk, we cover strategies for approaching support tickets, user FAQ’s, and common errors.

Now I realize you can’t really see the screen in this video– oops. Hoping we’ll be able to fix that for next time! Still wanted to share this clip as I think it does provide useful information & discussion for DoOO admins.

Documentation guides written for this portion of the workshop are linked below:

Supporting DoOO Full Category
• Fix for Changing Site URL in WP Dashboard
Approaching a Support Ticket
Unblocking/Blocking an IP in CSF
Common Troubleshooting Fixes
HTTP 500 Errors
Understanding .htaccess
Fixing Permissions


Fall 2017 DoOO Workshop

Workshop of One’s Own, Reclaim Hosting’s first administrator-focused intensive workshop, has come and gone. And I don’t use the word “intensive” lightly here- it was a dense two days, packed with information that would make even the most qualified admin exhausted, but was amazingly helpful nonetheless.

For this workshop, the Reclaim team really wanted to focus on creating an initial knowledge base of documentation that speaks directly to the Domain of One’s Own administrator. While the DoOO Community Forums can be helpful for certain categories, and there’s a template of DoOO support docs floating around for the community, we felt that there really wasn’t a source for administrators. We realize bringing Domain of One’s Own to a school can feel like a massive undertaking in itself, so if we can help even just a little bit with the onboarding process for new admins, then we’ll consider that a win!

So that was the mindset going in: a workshop for folks that would land somewhere between the Reclaim team coming to the university for in-person training, and the new admin putting in countless support tickets with us as a form of learning. Since this was a new event for us, we reached out to folks personally that we thought might benefit from the training. Though the attendees came from an array of backgrounds, titles, and experiences, we were really pushing to get people that, at the bare minimum, had experienced DoOO at their school for a couple of months. That way they had some familiarity with the platform, had time to come up with questions & knew in advance where their school wanted to take the project.

Jim talking through the three systems that make DoOO.

On Thursday morning, the first day of the workshop, we met folks at Reclaim’s office in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We introduced (or in some cases, reacquainted) ourselves over Panera bagels, and then jumped right into a platform overview at 9 am. Understanding how the platform works and being able to conceptualize how the three main pieces work together is crucial for supporting a community, so we felt like this was a strong start to the workshop. And as Meredith mentioned in her post, having only 6 attendees quickly made the environment feel intimate and comfortable.

I loved the “hands-on” feel. Notice Tim Clarke in the back writing on our feature request wall!

After the first session, Tim & Jim took the folks through an in-depth look at WHMCS (client manager) & WHM (server side). The initial homepages of these tools can feel quite intimidating if you haven’t worked with them before, so this felt like the natural next step in the itinerary. In WHMCS, the two covered ‘active’ vs. ‘pending’ orders, deprovisioning accounts, email templates, account ownership, creating Admin roles, and understanding logs & general settings. In WHM, Jim & Tim discussed settings in Installatron, hosting packages, account management, cPanel feature manager, addon domains, storage quotas, and changing domain names. Whew- what a list!

From there I spoke about the actual supporting of DoOO. We’ve learned from early on that Domain of One’s Own is nothing without people that use it, so understanding how to support the community is well over half the battle. I have videos of the talk that I’m currently working to get online, so those should be coming along soon. I covered strategies for approaching a support ticket, top 5 most common support requests & their fixes, unblocking IP addresses in WHM, .htaccess files, HTTP 500 errors, and quick database fixes.

Somehow in the mix of topics and sessions, we were able to fit in a quick lunch– courtesy of Chipotle. :) (Group order links FTW!)

Day two of the workshop was probably my favorite– we picked up right where we left off, continuing to talk through support scenarios by discussing hacked websites and how to clean them up and prevent them in the future. Tim walked folks through strategies, tools to use, and necessary steps to take. I summarized his talk in my blog post, Workshop of One’s Own: Notes on Hacked Site Session.

Meredith talking to attendees about Domain Transfers.

After that, Meredith spoke on Migrations, Transfers, and Databases. Quite the feat for someone who just joined Reclaim full time in September! She discussed migrating folks to a Domain of One’s Own platform, transferring them off DoOO after graduation, requirements for domain transfers, EPP codes, the lifecycle of domains, the importance of database migration, nameservers, and domain privacy.

Before lunch, I jumped into all things DNS, continuing the theme of supporting Domain of One’s Own. DNS has always felt like a hefty topic for me, so I only covered relevant content regarding the projects of those sitting in the room with us. We explored what DNS actually is and does, types of DNS records, how to edit records from WHM & cPanel, and common DNS errors and fixes to be aware of. I’m hoping to get the video of this session up shortly as well!

With Benny’s Pizza as fuel, Workshop attendees were given a ‘breakout room’-like puzzle during their lunch break. The group had to work together to solve a pretty involved support ticket with fixes that were covered over the last day and a half. They were given 3 escalations or ‘lifelines’ where they could submit a support ticket to ask the Reclaim team for help, but only ended up using 1 lifeline. It was awesome to watch them work together, and to hear their thought process for finding solutions. Everyone had come to the table with different levels of understanding and experiences, so they were able to play on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. When all was said and done, the group of 6 solved the ticket in under an hour by: editing DNS records, correcting a .htaccess file, manually turning off a faulty WordPress plugin, installing an SSL certificate, and editing database files to fix a broken WP dashboard. Not too shabby!

By the afternoon on day 2, everyone was feeling pretty drained but motivated for the last stretch of the workshop. I continued with a discussion about Exit Strategies for graduating students, and spoke on handling migrations, deleting old accounts, and the instructions to give students. From there, Tim conducted the last formal session of the workshop by talking about the potential of APIs in a Domain of One’s Own instance. It was nice to switch gears from more of a formal training of ‘how-to’s’ to an overview of ‘here are things that you could be doing’ approach. He talked through WHMCS hooks, taking advantage of cPanel features without accessing the cPanel interface, additional APIs in Installatron, and different API tools.

The last hour of the workshop was left for an open discussion- we answered any outstanding questions that had arisen, and then tackled more user/project-specific requests.

All in all, it was a jam-packed, successful event. We’re hoping to do these workshops regularly- potentially once a semester- and are so thankful for the folks that decided to come out and help us kick it off. The Reclaim team has already agreed that future workshops should include more interactivities besides the group lunch event on day 2, as they really do help liven things up and allow the group the opportunity to apply what they learned. And though we did take frequent breaks, I’m thinking future events should require additional stretch breaks, or potentially an activity or two where they have to stand up and walk around the room. (Haha!) Regardless of how helpful it can be to dive into dense tutorials on the big screen & follow along on computers, I think we could have used more reminders to get our blood pumping.

Whew! If you’ve made it this long, thanks for reading! Be on the lookout for future Workshop events at reclaimhosting.com/workshop.


Workshop of One’s Own: Notes on Hacked Site Session

Reclaim Hosting put on its very first 2-day Workshop for Domain of One’s Own admins on November 2 & 3. The following post is a summary of the first session from morning 2 of Workshop of One’s Own.

Identifying a Compromise
Cleaning a Hacked Site + Scanning Tools
Preventing a Hacked Site

Identifying a Compromise

-Checking Apache Status in WHM- the request column
-Visit the site. Worth noting that a site can load perfectly fine even if it’s hacked.
-Connect to the site via FTP, look for files that have random names
-Process Manager in WHM & kill processes
-Email Queue (Mail Queue Manager + ConfigServer Mail Queues)- check if the account is throwing out spam; delete the entire queue. Won’t stop spamming, but clears the slate.
-Are there any strange additional users in the database?

Cleaning a Hacked Site

-Clean up tools that don’t care about the application in question
-Completely delete wp-admin & wp-includes, and every other generic WordPress file besides wp-config or .htaccess
-Remove any injected code if needed for wp-config or .htaccess
-Reupload fresh copies of all plugins & themes installed; have a conversation with the user about what they need, premium plugins/themes
-Check wp-content>uploads for .php files. You should never see any .php files there!
-Grab a clean copy of WordPress, skipping over wp-content
-After you’ve done what you can, take a back up of it.
-Restoring a backup is always an option if the user hasn’t made any changes
-Recycle account passwords

Scanning Tools

-The first line of defense: Linux Malware Detect; can be installed on the server and managed through terminal. This is free, open-source software that quarantines hacked files. You can set a cron job that runs daily. Historically, this doesn’t detect everything but is a great start & preventative measure.
ConfigServer Exploit Scanner– commands in WHM to run scans; great search features; tons of options for different scans

Preventative Measures + Good Practice

-WordPress plugin: Wordfence; free and premium version
-CXS Watch in WHM; checks for any changes across any account, could have false positives so that’s something to be aware of
WPS Hide Login WordPress Plugin
BitNinja; distributed firewall on all of Reclaim’s servers
-Keeping WordPress plugins & themes up to date