Building Culture at Reclaim

I feel like I’ve had writer’s block for weeks now. I’ve been most productive with the monotonous tasks that I had been putting off for some time. Some days I work for hours without moving, while other days I can’t sit still for more than a couple of minutes. There’s no doubt that we all have been coping differently with an anxiety-inducing global pandemic, and I have been no exception. But as the states are slowly starting to introduce phases of reopening, I finally feel hopeful that we’ll return to some sense of normalcy soon enough. And with that feeling, I can sense the writer’s block beginning to lift. I’m getting back to a place where I can reflect on the work that I’m doing and where my thoughts have been since mid-March.

As things start to return to normal, there’s one thing (read: more than a one, but I’d like to keep this blog post short) in particular that I don’t want to forget about how I’ve shifted during this time:

I have been paying more attention to the people I am supporting instead of the tools they have questions about. This is a lesson that I catch myself relearning all the time, and it cannot be overstated no matter how much we may think it goes without saying. This simple shift makes me more understanding and caring in my general correspondence and meetings. It makes me more observant, which as a result helps me anticipate problems and fix them before they even occur. Basically, I just become a much better human being and others benefit from it. It can be very easy to get wrapped up in the technology that we’re using, but it will never hurt to take a step back, breathe, and show grace.

With that in mind, I’ve had a chance to think more broadly about the type of manager I want to be for others at Reclaim Hosting. Where can I tweak and adjust and improve internal workings, and where do I need to sit back and listen more? How can I make sure that I’m ‘visible’ while working remotely? Where should I be showing grace and understanding, and where can I be holding others accountable? These reflections are healthy at any point, though I’m especially stoked to have had more down time to think through this over the last few weeks. Next Tuesday, one of our Customer Support Specialists, Katie Hartraft, will be joining Reclaim Hosting full time as an Account and Support Specialist. Her dual role will be the first of its kind at Reclaim, though not unlike others in the way that she will be wearing many hats. Katie will continue to support the good people of Reclaim Hosting for part of her time by answering tickets, writing documentation, etc., but she’ll slowly move into the account management and sales side of Reclaim for the other half of her time. Katie has plenty of experience with Domain of One’s One as a recent UMW grad, and she’s been killing it at Reclaim this last semester. I’m excited to work closely with her during this next chapter of her career, which also just happens to be a big milestone for Reclaim – a new hire for sales. :)

A full team meeting sans Tim/Jim :)

And on that note: Another noticeable shift at Reclaim has taken shape in the ability for Jim and Tim to slowly back out of the day-to-day and let the ship steer itself. My goal for them is to fully step back and become the Idea Guys while the day-to-day work moves on without them. I do think we’ve been well on our way to meet this goal for a while now, but in the last few weeks in particular the shift has felt real and attainable for the first time. This is most certainly a testament to the well-oiled-machine-of-a-team we’ve got going for us right now. Meredith as Customer Support Manager has beautifully handled growing pains as we’re moving into one of our busiest support years to date. Gordon, an all around workhorse, has been kicking ass on support and currently holds the sought-after lead on number of solved support tickets since the beginning of the year. Chris, meanwhile, is provisioning entire Domain of One’s setups in about 30 minutes. He’s a scripting genius, I tell you, and is no doubt keeping our sh*t secure, efficient and consistent across the board.

Jim and I recently spoke about these culture shifts, amongst other things, in our recent chat on DS106 Radio. He blogged about it here, and I’m attaching the recording below if you want to give it a listen.

whew. take that, writer’s block!

Screenshot Scenes

Scenes from the last few weekswhich in some ways have felt like a blur, and in other ways have been great quality time.

Dual monitor setup to watch Tim share for the first time!

Playing Quiplash with some Reclaim peeps to keep our minds off the news.

Recording an extended presentation for #OER20 :: Session available here!

Participating in #OER20– a brilliant event put on remotely by the lovely ALT folks + my DS106radio tab which has been open frequently these days. :)

KaraOERoke with the #OER20 crew… and a live stream on to boot.

Wrapping up March (i.e. our WordPress month) and jumping into April– the month of migrations!

Summer 2019 Check In

It has unintentionally become tradition for me to spend summers with Reclaim Hosting in a state of self-reflection as I organize my professional life, tackle a big project, and write a check-in blog post.

In the my early Reclaim days the big project and summer blog posts came in the form of self teaching and pumping out a ton of ‘how-to’ articles: Site Publisher: HTML 5, Static HTML Contact Forms, Generating a Backup, Updating WHOIS Information, Email Retrieval: POP vs. IMAP, & Understanding Email: MX Records.

During the summer of 2017, I set up KinHR, created a really basic company policy handbook, and transitioned our Sales accounts from Asana to SuiteCRM. This was also the summer that we held our first Domains conference!

Last summer, Jim and I did a deep clean of our CRM, and I added in a ton of custom fields that helped our overall ability to track the lifetime of a contract. And as a new Account Manager, I sent out the first semester newsletter to all accounts, keeping everyone up to date on the happenings at Reclaim.

Which brings me to this summer: Chris and Danny joined us few months back, we hosted our second Domains conference (part 1 & part 2), Jim and I traveled to WFU for a workshop, and I took on a new position at Reclaim! It has been a busy couple of weeks to say the least, and I don’t see things slowing down anytime soon. At the end of June I wrote out my Work Plan for the next year, and I have to say that I’m pretty jazzed for what’s to come. My intention will be to continue writing about these projects over the next year as way of self-reflecting and keeping myself accountable.

With that in mind, the first item on my Work Plan is to transition Reclaim Hosting accounts from SuiteCRM to Zendesk Sell. I think when I set up SuiteCRM originally, I always knew that there was a likelihood of us growing out of it one day, and that day has most certainly come. What’s more, Reclaim already uses Zendesk for support tickets, so the jump to a Zendesk CRM environment was not hard to grasp. In fact, the Support and Sales environment are integrated really well so a Support Agent can notify a Sales Agent of an incoming lead with a single click. I can feel myself starting to sound a little advertise-y here so I’ll stop while I’m ahead and simply say that this move is really, really good for us. I’ve been transitioning accounts over to Sell for the last few weeks, and I’ll blog more about that progress soon.

Lastly, I can’t write a Summer 2019 Check-In post without recounting the recent ice cream party that took place on a particularly warm afternoon last week. I was so bummed that I missing out (a big downside of working remotely) and before I knew it I heard a knock on my front door. The Fredericksburg crew sent ice cream to my home!! I ended up joining the party on the robot and it was just like I was sitting around the table with the RH team + Tim’s family that was visiting!

After ice cream, Tim shared some of his adventures with Virtual Reality (he just blogged about this here), which was another cool moment of the afternoon as well. He walked around the streets of his hometown, and we got to see the house where he grew up. Meanwhile my fiancé had come home for the day, noticed I was eating ice cream at my desk, and ended up looking over my shoulder to see what I was up to. His quote, after observing for a few minutes: “You’re rolling around on a robot, you’ve got a family in the conference room, your boss has a VR headset on, and they just delivered ice cream to your door. Your job is pretty cool.”

Yep… I would have to agree. :)

February List: Handy Tools & Applications

Every now and then I’ll come across an insanely cool application or digital tool that makes life just a little easier. I thought I’d put a list together of my favorites and share below:


1. Bear

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of note-taking tools out there, but this one is something special. First of all, Bear works and syncs between all various devices, so you can have your notes with you wherever you go. This editor is dead simple to use, clean and organized.

Why I’m converting: I’ve used Apple’s Notes feature for the longest time, used Evernote for a while too, and even have various jots down on my TextEditor, TextMate. I’m slowly finding myself more often opening Bear to take notes during meetings, track to-do lists, etc. because it’s quick and customizable. There’s no toolbar at the top, so adding checkboxes, for example, is done with a quick hyphen space maneuver. I can also change fonts, add tags to my notes, type in Markdown, and enter into Dark Mode. It handles everything that a normal notetaker does, but its the little things that make the biggest difference.

Editor/ Terminal/ FTP

2. Codeanywhere

Is it a Code Editor? Remote FTP Client? Terminal Console? Collaboration Editor? Let me just save you the guesswork and tell you CodeEditor is all of the above. I haven’t tested out every single feature yet, but my experience with it so far has been seamless and intuitive.

From a support standpoint, I could see this tool being really handy for FTP. For a user that’s never heard of S/FTP, telling them in a support ticket that they need to install a Client on their computer in order to connect is honestly kind of off-putting. FTP already has a laundry list of steps needed to create a successful connection, so being able to take away even just one of those steps is awesome.

I was actually made aware of this tool by a professor in a support ticket asking if his students could use CodeAnywhere with their Reclaim Hosting accounts. (The answer is yes.) But with the collaborative elements and remote features, I can easily see where this could be helpful in a classroom environment, too.


3. Timepage

Timepage is a Calendar assistant built by Moleskine. I’ve had it installed on my phone for the last month or so and am really loving it. This app unlike any other calendar out there in terms of user experience, customizable features, integrations, and overall design. The above screenshots don’t really do it justice.

I also love the heads up it gives me for each day on my iPhone summary page (when you swipe all the way to the left). It integrates & syncs beautifully with my desktop calendar in Spark, which I also use quite frequently when I’m on my computer and working through my inbox. Timepage also connects with my contacts, maps, and applications like Weather and Uber. I definitely recommend checking itout and playing around with it yourself!


4. Loom

Loom is a free Screen & Video Recorder that’s built straight in your browser. Again– there are plenty of these sorts of tools out there, but it was a game changer for me to learn that Loom integrates directly with Slack, an internal messaging tool that Reclaim Hosting basically runs on.

Not only can I publish recordings and create public links to share, but I can also share directly in Slack from the Loom window to a specific channel or conversation. Works like a charm! I also have the option of organizing my videos into different folders within the Loom dashboard. For instance, I have a folder called ‘support scenarios’ where I filter recordings that I’ve created to send to folks in support tickets or DoOO admins.

OER 18: Reclaim Video & Cloudron

Now that I’m on the tail end of this trip, I feel like I can finally wrap my head around the last 10 days and gather my thoughts for a blog post. Last week, the Reclaim team met in Bristol for the OER 18 Conference. The entire experience was definitely a mix of ups and downs, but that’s not a result of OER’s doing; I got sick and had to back out of the second day of the conference & my presentation slot. (Ugh, talk about timing.) It was a huge bummer to prepare so hard for something to then not have a chance to share it, but I’m incredibly grateful to be apart of such a solid team that was able to step in for me. Apparently, they rocked the house!

It was always my intention to share the presentation slides & summarize the talk in a post after the fact for reference, so I’ll definitely be doing that as my small way to make up for missing the real deal. But first, I wanted to share other photos and thoughts from the first day of the conference because it was incredible! After running the Domains 17 conference last year, I have a much deeper level of respect for the folks that run these events year after year, especially when they’re done so thoughtfully and seamlessly.

Day One

^On our way out the door for the first day of #OER18!

Firstly, the venue for the OER event was absolutely wonderful. The conference took place on the second floor of a theater that sat right on the water. There was a cafe, plenty of space to catch up with friendly faces, and talks were given in traditional auditorium-like spaces.

Reclaim Video also made a grand entrance by introducing the promo video for domains, new website, and hosting a VHS table situated in one of the main conference galleries. Reclaim Video even convinced Reclaim Hosting to change their look as well. :)

^This artwork created by Bryan Mathers has been a long time coming– it was created back when we were envisioning how Reclaim Video would mesh with Reclaim Hosting. I’ve written a post sharing these details here.

Later that day, Jim and Tim gave a 15-min lightning talk on which was super awesome to hear. The point of the presentation was to give a (brief) overview of the ‘app store’-like hosting environment, how we’re considering Cloudron’s potential as a part of Reclaim’s future, and whether or not audience members might be interested in something like this. Though the talk was short, being able to gauge the audience’s reaction was incredibly rewarding.

It’s safe to say that the Reclaim Team left all the more motivated to continue thinking through how Cloudron might be integrated with or (dare I say it) replace cPanel one day. Tim has already begun to build out the beginnings of a Cloudron interface/DoOO alternative, but I’ll save that for another post. ;)

I also felt particularly attached to the keynote at the end of day one given by Dr. Momodou Sallah, a Reader in Globalisation and Global Youth Work at the Social Work, Youth and Community Division, De Montfort University, UK. I was drawn to the work he’s done for and with Global Hands, a Social Enterprise/Charity operating in The Gambia.

I was heavily involved in outreach/charity work throughout my high school & college years, so his talk really pulled at my heartstrings. I also thought it was an incredibly refreshing take on the Openness theme in an OER conference setting. For me, Dr. Sallah’s talk was an important reminder that learning in the open extends way beyond the traditional 4-walled, classroom setting. There’s always more we can be and should be doing to bring underprivileged areas of the world up to speed with not only the latest technologies of learning but the basic necessities of human life.

After his talk, we all made our way outside to end Day One with a beautiful boat tour around the venue:

Super thankful to have been apart of this conference, if only for a day. And a special thanks to Maren Deepwell, Martin Hawksey, and the rest of the OER team for pulling off an incredible event & helping us bring our Reclaim Video dreams to life.

Stay tuned for an overview of the Workshop presentation summary post!

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.

Stepping into Domain of One’s Own

Over time, this web space has naturally become a collection of tutorials, guides & how-tos for navigating a Reclaim Hosting account. Documentation makes for really easy blog posts. And I’m constantly learning something at Reclaim. So when I learn something, I blog it. It’s been a great system.

That said, there’s a whole other side of my position at Reclaim that I don’t blog about often, likely because it still feels new and a bit intimidating. But it’s beginning to take up so much of my time that I simply can’t ignore it any longer!

I’ve always had a serious interest in the “people” side of Reclaim Hosting. And by that, I mean discussing with folks at institutions about supporting Domain of One’s Own on their campuses. For those who are new to the scene, Domain of One’s Own is a package offered by Reclaim Hosting to schools who are interested in giving their students and faculty members a space to explore what it means to have an online identity. Everyone who signs up through the customized single sign-on portal is given access to their very own cPanel account & domain. There’s generally a couple (if not a full team) of folks at the school that then spearhead the project and act as liaisons between students/faculty & Reclaim Hosting support. Continue reading “Stepping into Domain of One’s Own”

Reclaim Reflection

Last week provided a unique scenario for me. Jim was in Australia, Tim was in Germany, and Meredith was on vacation. As both of my bosses were asleep by early afternoon on the east coast, I had to step up my support game to say the least. I worked longer hours, faced the out-of-my-league support tickets head on, and learned an absolute mess of information. And to be honest, I feel rather proud of myself. It was probably the first time that I was on my own support-wise for longer than an afternoon. Additionally, it was also the first time that I felt like a truly capable “fixer”. Don’t get me wrong– I still had to be rescued every now and then, but overall I held my own and that’s something worth celebrating.

I suppose in any line of work, it can be very easy to compare your skill set to that of someone else’s. Especially in an “All Things Internet” career path, this feels so tempting. There’s always another language to learn, another problem to solve, another platform to develop. And on top of that, it’s ever-changing. Shortly after I was first hired at Reclaim, I dreamt of this scenario one day where I never had to ask support-related questions. Where I just always knew the answer. (Lol.) It sounds silly to even type now, but there were months on end where it felt like asking questions was all I did. Continue reading “Reclaim Reflection”

We Like to Wear Hats: Overview of Projects

You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve given this site a little facelift! I’m hoping that it will give me the motivation to blog more often. ;)

I’ve been in a huge period of transition over the last month. Flying home from an 8-week stay in Madrid, pulling my stuff out of storage & moving it to Fredericksburg, unpacking & purging everything, attending multiple graduations & birthday celebrations for family and friends, and switching from a remote to office schedule. << I realize that’s a bit of a run-on sentence, but my entire life has felt like a run-on sentence! May and June are always crazy busy, am I right?

Having said that, I have never felt more connected to my job than I do now. I wear many hats, and my title as Operations Manager feels truer than ever.

As mentioned above, I moved back to Fredericksburg so I could be on the ground floor of something really cool called CoWork Fredericksburg. I’ve blogged a few times about this, but here’s the scoop: At the end of last year, Reclaim Hosting took over a seriously out of date coworking/office space. Over the last few months, we’ve broken down walls, ripped up floors & lifted ceilings. We’ve rebranded and are now opening the space back up to the public in a soft launch. My primary roles with this project have included helping with making a lot of the design decisions for the space, building out, and working alongside Tim to set up furniture, chat with new members, and manage our social media accounts & membership software.

We’ve actually joked on several occasions while in the middle of ripping up carpet or moving a ridiculously heavy table by sarcastically saying the following phrase: ‘This will be a low-key computer job,’ they said.

I think I can speak for Jim & Tim here too when I say that it has been so fun to watch the space transform. We will have plans to add artwork, a completely renovated kitchenette, more lounge furniture, and another screen for larger presentations. We want to add lockers for members to store their belongings, and vintage p.o. boxes so we can receive mail for them as well. But for now, the important stuff is here and that feels good: countless desks, a large (gorgeous) custom farm table & laptop bar set from Frasier Wood Elements,  a vintage phone booth, the cutest little succulents, and plenty of snazzy tech gadgets. This is where I’ve started coming to work every day, and I count myself pretty lucky.

When I’m not taking care of my Reclaim or CoWork to-do lists, I’ve been spending a large chunk of my time planning for the Domains 17 Conference that’s taking place at the beginning of June. All the behind the scenes details like catering, liability insurance, furniture setups, security regulations, t-shirts, website & twitter management, travel & room reservations– I’m your gal.

I’ve planned for conferences & events in the past, but nothing of this magnitude. We’ll have roughly 80 attendees when its all said and done, and I can’t wait! It has been a brilliant challenge so far, and I owe a great deal of my organizing to Asana. I honestly feel like my master to-do list in my Asana project is my most prized possession at the moment. Haha!

The other big project that Reclaim Hosting has taken on in the last couple months is our new sister hosting company, Rockaway Hosting. Since both CoWork and Domains17 come with a “here and now” mentality while Rockaway sort of runs itself, it has been put on the backburner in a lot of ways. But that doesn’t make it any less important or awesome! While Reclaim Hosting tailors to the needs of educational institutions, faculty & students, Rockaway was born out of meeting the needs of the non-educational folks. We kept large businesses and organizations in mind when creating the hosting plans. Rockaway offers SLA agreements, phone support, and video training. While the infrastructure remains entirely the same on our end, Rockaway is priced per month instead of Reclaim’s annual renewals to accommodate for the ebb & flow of a business.

I was able to build out the Rockaway site with the incredible help of Bryan Mathers‘ artwork. (His art is actually on the sites for Domains 17 & Reclaim Hosting as well. If you can’t tell, we love him.)

In what free time I do have, Tim has been teaching me different SSH commands. You have to remember that I’m an English major turned full geek, and all geekdom has been brought on my own personal doing or Reclaim’s doing. I currently know just enough about SSH that I know how much I don’t know. Does that make sense? I find logging into the servers via SSH on the terminal so completely fascinating. I’ve been introduced to a new world– a new challenge to conquer! Tim works at lightspeed using SSH, so that’s where I’m setting the bar. (#LOL)

I suppose the last (but definitely not least) item worth mentioning is that Reclaim Hosting is soon to be bringing on a new member to the team! Meredith Fierro just graduated from the University of Mary Washington this past weekend and spent the last semester of her senior year interning with us. She blogged about her experiences here! Meredith will be joining us in OKC for the Domains conference, and then begin her position at Reclaim in mid-June.

Good stuff all around, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.