PHP Updates and Removals

PHP Updates and Removals

It's been almost 2 years since I last wrote about major PHP updates to Reclaim Hosting's platforms. At the time the big move was setting our default PHP to 7.0. The transition from PHP 5.6 to 7.0 was perhaps the biggest breaking change of all and at the time 5.6 had already been deprecated for a long time but software (particularly some WordPress themes and plugins) had been slow to make the transition.

One of the great things about running a site on Reclaim when it comes to PHP is that you aren't limited to the version we run on the server (we have been defaulting to PHP 7.2 for the past year or so). With the MultiPHP Manager in cPanel you can adjust your PHP version allowing you to run the absolutely latest or something older for compatibility. But allowing older versions to continue running does pose a security risk for us and we've had to strike a balance between compatibility and security. At the time of the last post I promised we would likely remove support for PHP 5.6 in 1 year's time. We ended up giving it 2 years but that time has now come and we want to provide enough advance notice for users to test their systems.

PHP Updates and Removals

As a recap PHP 5.6 was end of life on January 1st, 2019. It has not received security updates in a year and a half. Meanwhile later versions of PHP not only improve on the security front but also have performance benefits. Even WordPress is recommending PHP 7.4. You can find full information on supported PHP versions from the PHP project on their website. PHP 7.2, our current default, is actually only receiving security fixes and no improvements and will be end of life at the end of this year prompting a need for these updates.

On January 1, 2021, Reclaim Hosting will make PHP 7.4 the default version on all of our servers. Users will have the option to downgrade as low as PHP 7.2 but no lower. We will be removing all support for PHP 5.6, 7.0, and 7.1 which have all been end of life for over a year. If your site is currently set to use one of these versions the site will go down when those versions are removed so we recommend spot checking your account now to ensure you are running later versions. It remains our strong recommendation that users attempt to run test and run their software with the latest possible PHP version. If you wish to follow the server defaults you can set your PHP version to "inherit" to use the server version.

FAQ

Q: I have a really important project hosted with Reclaim that does not support PHP 7.2. Can you make an exception so we can keep the project alive?
A: Unfortunately it is not safe for us to make exceptions to our systems for one-off cases like this. The best way you can ensure the long term sustainability of the project is to update the software to be compatible with more recent versions of PHP.

Q: My website is not really used anymore. If I can't get it updated what options do I have?
A: For archival purposes you may wish to convert your website to static HTML. There are some great recommendations on this approach in this community forum thread.

Q: Does this policy apply to institutional and managed hosting customers with their own servers?
A: Yes, this policy will apply to all servers managed by Reclaim Hosting regardless of customer. To ensure the security of our systems and meet SLA requirements we will not make exceptions.

Q: What about your new Reclaim Cloud offering?
A: This policy was already in place for Reclaim Cloud at launch time so it is not currently possible to run a PHP version lower than 7.2.

Q: Who do I contact if I have more questions?
A: You can reach out to support@reclaimhosting.com with all questions.

We Got Our PMA: Bad Brains Back in Rotation

Shirt with "listen to Bad Brains" written on it
I saw the above shirt while shopping with my kids in clothes store here in Trento. While I was surprised for a moment, it quickly turned to endorsing this message. One should listen to the legendary DC punk/reggae outfit the Bad Brains early and often.* So when we needed to setup another shared hosting server as we prepare for the fall, I saw this shirt as a sign it was high time to bring back this pioneering band that while defying genres, brought a whole lot of musical class to the punk rock scene. In fact, along with Black Flag you can argue the Bad Brains helped define the course of hardcore punk over the next decade.

One of our very first institutional servers for the University of Oklahoma was named after this band, but we discovered naming school servers after bands quickly became impractical, especially when schools have multiple servers. So, when we migrated much of our infrastructure to Digital Ocean a bunch of servers with hardcore band names got retired, minutemen, huskerdu, joydivision, ramones, and many more. We’ve been bringing them back into rotation, and given the state of the Union in the USA and a general ban on logic in DC right now, it seemed like an ideal time to honor a band that itself was banned from DC as a result of their raucous positivity.

In fact, the ban on the Bad Brains forced them up to New York City in the early 80s where they infused that scene with a powerful shot in the arm: influencing bands like the Beastie Boys, the Cro-Mags, Reagan Youth, and many more. Being a kid on Long Island in the early 80s and going into Manhattan to see the Bad Brains was formative. The energy on stage was electric, the live show was not unlike the iconic thunderbolt hitting the cupola on their eponymous album Bad Brains.

So, I guess this is as much a PSA to listen to the Bad Brains, as it is an attempt to spread some PMA as we put the Bad Brains back in rotation at Reclaim Hosting.

______________

*I do hope the skateboard company that created the shirt, Element, is giving the band a piece of the action.

The Evolution of the Cloud

We have some really exciting things that we're working on right now that we'll be sharing in the coming days and weeks ahead. But I think it's worth first taking a look back at my personal and Reclaim Hosting's  history in hosting to understand why I think this next step is such an important one. This will be a long post, but anyone who has been watching or has been a part of this history will likely appreciate the context for how these ideas have evolved (I know I personally do, and after all that's what this blog is for).

Shortly after I joined DTLT at the University of Mary Washington in the summer of 2011 one of my first projects was to start DTLT Today, a semi-regular video podcast that everyone in the group to some capacity participated in. We streamed it live which provided a really cool synchronous element and I still go back and watch the shows today to get a sense of where our heads were at around particular topics at the time. You can find all the episodes on my YouTube channel if you scroll back far enough. And that streaming part was an interesting one. I had experience through ds106.tv with third party tools like Justin.tv (now defunct because they became Twitch) and it was before the days of YouTube offering free streaming. I got it in my head to play around with Amazon Web Services to quickly create a streaming server of our own running streaming software called Wowza. The software would have been quite expensive and I surely had no server of our own on campus I could run it on, but for just an hour of live streaming we could do it very cheap (pennies per day).

Streaming Live Video without Ads for Pennies
I’ve been in search of a decent low cost video streaming solution for a long time now. It doesn’t take long playing with Ustream [http://ustream.tv] and Livestream [http://livestream.com…
The Evolution of the Cloud

That was my first time experiencing what "the cloud" could really do for web-based projects. The distributed plug and play nature of the tools got me hooked because there was a very low barrier to entry. If something wasn't working right, destroy it and start a new one. There was a marketplace of applications I could rely on for prebuilt stuff and even back in 2011 AWS had a lot of different services (now exponentially so).

By 2014 we had started to turn our eyes to AWS once again as a possible alternative hosting environment for UMW Blogs. We had suffered performance issues on that platform for quite awhile as we tried to handle growth and this seemed an opportunity for us to have a more flexible infrastructure that could grow with that project. We had planned to just move the database to an RDS instance and maybe the uploads to S3. But we ran into such latency that rather than scrap everything we added an EC2 server in and moved the whole application. And it was so fast!

UMW Blogs in the Cloud
Anyone tasked with running a large WordPress Multisite install at an institutional level has likely dealt with their fair share of issues in the past few years from database scaling with large growth to the constant barrage of spam and login attempts that can DDOS and server and bring it to its knee…
The Evolution of the Cloud

In the Fall of 2014 I had also begun playing with a piece of software I was starting to hear about called Docker. Something about servers being the old guard and "containers" being the new hotness. But what was a container? On the face of it they felt a lot like virtual servers. There was a hub I could search and find all kinds of different applications just like at AWS. But these were much faster than spinning up an EC2 instance because containers didn't have to start an entire operating system and make use of all the hardware of the computer they were running on, they were much smaller virtualized instances of just the application they were running with the ability to share all the common OS-level stuff across multiple containers.

Keep in mind Reclaim Hosting had been a thing for a year at this point and Domain of One's Own at UMW for 2 years. Add to that Hippie Hosting and I had about 3 years of server experience under my belt but it was all in the context of shared hosting with Plesk and cPanel. Because Docker allowed me to run applications I could never run previously in LAMP servers I was immediately hooked. I figured out a way to share multiple Ghost containers on a single server so we started offering that through Reclaim Hosting. Similar with Discourse forum hosting. I even had a Federated Wiki instance up and running for a time that was running on Docker containers (remember that?!). It's been a long running dream for us to offer an elegant solution to allow people to play with this stuff. But there was still a lot of manual work creating and removing these containers when users would sign up, and a lack of a real solution meant slow adoption and difficulty supporting it.

Fast forward to the end of 2014 and I've given notice that I'm going to do Reclaim Hosting full time, quite a leap of faith given the security of working at a public institution. But this shit was fun, people were trusting us, and the community was growing. In December of that year Jim and I had the thought to bring Kin Lane to Fredericksburg to talk to us about APIs and think through how we might build an architecture for that at Reclaim Hosting. My head was still in the clouds with all the Docker stuff and we couldn't resist thinking about it in terms of containers, all different endpoints and applications as various containers with their own unique hostnames. It was a solid few days of brainstorming that pushed the very boundaries of my understanding at the time and I still treasure not just these scribbled notes on a whiteboard but also the generosity of Kin's time with us.

The Evolution of the Cloud

In early 2015 I learned of a project called Sandstorm that allowed for container-based hosting of applications. It was open source and I set a server up to start playing. It checked a lot of boxes in making it easy to start containers running Ghost, Etherpad, and other apps without the overhead of needing to be a developer, but the drawbacks were that it was not using Docker and building apps to run in the environment was very difficult with their model. It also seemed pretty heavily to favor collaboration applications with less of a focus on publishing so oddly content management systems were more difficult to work with in their model. The group developing Sandstorm got hired by Cloudflare and the project is mostly abandoned at this point, but I know OpenETC has made quite a bit of use of the platform.

The Coming Sandstorm.io

By August of 2015 I return back to AWS again, this time to experiment with moving Reclaim Hosting's main site to a distributed stack there. Not just a single EC2 instance with files in S3, but rather a load balanced stack with multiple app servers in different regions, a CDN on top, and deployment through Git and a staging server to boot. This was amazing but it also ended up being quite expensive and a lot of overhead to manage. I didn't find Amazon's tools very user-friendly (there are much more developer-focused of course) and I couldn't justify the high costs of multiple EC2 instances for a site that while mission critical also wasn't a massive load at the time even on a shared server.

Reclaim Hosting in the Cloud
This past week marked the 2 year anniversary of Reclaim Hosting [https://reclaimhosting.com] and what started as something of an experiment has turned into a successful business and one of the most rewarding things I’ve been a part of in my professional career. We’ve come a long way in 2 years but w…
The Evolution of the Cloud

3 years ago in Fall of 2017 I learned of a project called Cloudron and started playing with it. Similar to Sandstorm you could install it on your own server, it was (key word was) open source and this system used Docker containers at its core. Even more it made it fairly easy to map custom domains, provision SSL certs, and run your software on the web with ease and the list of support apps had a lot of amazing stuff like Gitlab, Ghost, Etherpad, and more. We piloted a program with Bates College in which we integrated a Cloudron server with their Domain of One's Own program and we even considered at one point whether or not Cloudron could be the backend of some kind of future "Domains 2.0" environment where folks weren't limited by the LAMP stack. Unfortunately what we found was that the focus on Cloudron as a personal server made it less of a great fit for a multi-tenant model. There was a basic user management built in, but most models reflected a single or multiple admins handling all the installation rather than a true platform as a service style offering that we were hoping for. And the business model of Cloudron has changed a lot over the years with open source now being nothing more than a label (turns out the ability to install applications is not open source and requires subscription fees paid to them so there's a lot of lock-in there) and development of our own applications was proving to be challenging because they supported Docker but you had to build with the container as a base and setup volumes in a very particular way for them to work. So back to the drawing board.

Beyond LAMP
Since Reclaim Hosting was founded in 2013, cPanel and the traditional “LAMP” stack have been at its core. LAMP is an acronym for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP and some of the more familiar applications you love like WordPress and Omeka run that tech stack. This comes with its own limitations as newer so…
The Evolution of the Cloud

The common themes here are that this stuff is not new (nothing ever is) but that it has traditionally been very complex and framed for developer audiences. And in lot of ways that's where Reclaim Hosting found themselves with the state of web hosting in 2013. It wasn't that cPanel or LAMP stacks were some brave new world we were exploring, but we saw an opportunity to build a community around providing easy hosting for educators in a context where you could get real support and build out a presence on the web. We found our niche in that and have continued to double down on that with our Domain of One's Own program and Managed Hosting services. The platform plays a big role, but so do the people.

Domain of One’s Own: Notes from the Trailing Edge

Maybe you're building your Next Generation Digital Learning Environment and wanting to use open source tools like Mattermost, Etherpad, Jitsi Meet, and WordPress to create a framework for your courses. Maybe you're like me in 2011 and wanted to play with some complex piece of software without investing in the high server costs and overhead of buying a VPS (ever tried to run your own install of Canvas?). Maybe you're curious to try running your blog on Ghost like this one here. And maybe you want to start a project small with potential for it to grow in a big way over time and you don't want to have to continually adjust hosting environments for whatever level will account for new traffic you are experiencing (we see that a lot with WP Multisites on campuses where year 1 looks very different from year 5 of the project, or hell even a Sunday evening when everyone's homework is due). Is there a DH project that you've been eyeing but not sure how to install and run it? Are you trying to get support for newer scholarly publishing platforms at your university but you aren't sure where to start?

Our efforts and experiments throughout all of this have been to answer the question of "what's next?" and look towards the future of web hosting with an evolution of the past. It needs to have a user-friendly interface. It needs to be affordable. It needs to be without limitations. It needs to scale.

Today starts that journey, and Reclaim Cloud is coming very soon. In the coming weeks we will be talking more and more about what this platform is and what it can provide. If any of this post hits on struggles you've had or interests please do add your email to the list to be updated and we'll be working to add more people to the beta as we ramp up towards a public launch.

Reclaim On the Radio

Can it be 10 days ago already? Yes indeed it can be, on April 24th Meredith and I chatted on ds106radio about a wide range of things from wire106 to Mt Trashmore to remote working during COVID-19 to her phenomenal work as support manager at Reclaim Hosting and beyond.  Meredith has already posted the conversation on her blog (Domain of her own!), and the following audio has both the conversation and a little TGIF series of songs on the ds106radio:

This reminds me of a project I started over a week ago but have not returned to, basically creating separate server for reclaimrad.io (nothing working there yet) using AzuraCast. Digital Ocean has an imaged Droplet for AzuraCast that I installed, and I have just not taken the time to work through AzuraCast, but that’s on the docket for this week.

Image of Azuracast droplet on Digital OCean

Image of AzuraCast droplet on Digital OCean

But beyond the technicalities, the idea behind reclaimradio is to have a radio station that we add songs to as we’re all working remotely to create a sense of connection for us to have in the background. That already existed at the Reclaim Hosting physical offices via Spotify, but this would be more intentional, folks can add songs, choose to DJ, or just banter. Who knows if it will work or not, but we’ll never know if I don’t get off my ass and make it happen. 

Image of Taylor Jadin Radio

Taylor Jadin has created his own radio station and spinning it up and down via API calls whenever he needs it to save money and basically create and destroy a personal radio station as needed. I love the way his station page looks and I want to hear more about that process, might be a good excuse for a ds106radio conversation that he can x-cast to his radio ?  

Winning in Last Place

There has been a major transition in my work over the past 3 months that is worth noting and applauding. We had some goals in place last year that I would be able to remove myself as much as possible from the day to day support tickets. For a variety of reasons that goal wasn't met by the end of 2019, but with a new year we've had a lot of developments that have moved the needle dramatically.

The first big change is Meredith Fierro taking on the role interim Customer Support Manager. Meredith has been an incredible asset to Reclaim Hosting since she began as a student intern 3 years ago. Today not only is she using her wealth of institutional knowledge of the ins and outs of the business to manage our support infrastructure, but she's also risen to the challenge of learning how to manage people, time, and projects in this role and we couldn't be happier.

The second change was bringing one of our part-timers, Gordon Hawley, on a full time customer support rep. Gordon works Afternoon-Evening 5 days a week covering one of the weekend days as well and his quick rise from part time to full is testament to just how awesome he has been on the job. The hosting industry has a lot of quirks since you're essentially dealing with computers and computers can be complex odd beasts on occasion. Gordon works so well with customers, he's patient and works through issues that come up with what on the face of it might seem like relative ease. Most important for me, he's not afraid to ask for help and so I'm seeing a growing community of sharing and learning within the team that makes me very happy.

Third would be having another UMW rockstar Chris Blankenship working under me as a Junior Linux Systems Administrator. Chris was actually promoted to this role back in September after working as a part time support rep for 3 months (are you seeing a trend here? When we see people doing good work we're quick to lock them into full time jobs so they don't leave!). Having someone work with me on the technical side of our growing infrastructure honestly always felt like a football we would kick down the field with plans to address another day, it feels surreal to be there now. Chris is super smart and a scripting wizard. He's helped script out our provisioning process for new schools to the point where we can almost setup an entire custom server environment in a matter of hours with the majority of the work happening in the background while we play pinball in the office ;). Chris has also been running point on some of the escalated issues that come up in support tickets, putting another barrier between me and support.

And as if all of this wasn't good enough, we managed to steal the talents of Katie Hartraft who is a senior at UMW and currently working at the DKC as well. She's been working part time with us covering the other half of the nights/weekend shifts and rounding out a powerhouse team of folks that get the job done on support each and every day. I've been super impressed with how quickly Katie has managed to learn and master the various tools we use like WHMCS to be responsive to tickets as they come in.

Tickets by Assignee past 30 Days

So the whole reason this post was brewing was due to me checking our stats on ticket load given I've definitely been feeling the relief and sure enough it's a milestone moment. I have never held that last place spot, pretty sure since we began the company I've almost always been at the top of this list or fairly close to it. Instead you have a support team that is striking a balance to relieve me of that burden. Not to mention just look at those first response times across all hours and days! And I can imagine the next step when Jim moves back from Italy will be reduce his involvement as well.

It feels really good to build in structure to this company. I can remember the early days of folks being super concerned that Reclaim was essentially just Jim and I and what would happen if they sign a contract and then we bail? Well not only are we still around but these days I can honestly say we have redundancy and an entire team keeping this ship running day in and day out. It's a welcome change of pace that has allowed me to more acutely focus on the arcade venture and will help Jim and I both ensure that Reclaim Hosting can sustain itself beyond some passionate founders. Here's to 2020 and beyond!

Winning in Last Place

There has been a major transition in my work over the past 3 months that is worth noting and applauding. We had some goals in place last year that I would be able to remove myself as much as possible from the day to day support tickets. For a variety of reasons that goal wasn't met by the end of 2019, but with a new year we've had a lot of developments that have moved the needle dramatically.

The first big change is Meredith Fierro taking on the role interim Customer Support Manager. Meredith has been an incredible asset to Reclaim Hosting since she began as a student intern 3 years ago. Today not only is she using her wealth of institutional knowledge of the ins and outs of the business to manage our support infrastructure, but she's also risen to the challenge of learning how to manage people, time, and projects in this role and we couldn't be happier.

The second change was bringing one of our part-timers, Gordon Hawley, on a full time customer support rep. Gordon works Afternoon-Evening 5 days a week covering one of the weekend days as well and his quick rise from part time to full is testament to just how awesome he has been on the job. The hosting industry has a lot of quirks since you're essentially dealing with computers and computers can be complex odd beasts on occasion. Gordon works so well with customers, he's patient and works through issues that come up with what on the face of it might seem like relative ease. Most important for me, he's not afraid to ask for help and so I'm seeing a growing community of sharing and learning within the team that makes me very happy.

Third would be having another UMW rockstar Chris Blankenship working under me as a Junior Linux Systems Administrator. Chris was actually promoted to this role back in September after working as a part time support rep for 3 months (are you seeing a trend here? When we see people doing good work we're quick to lock them into full time jobs so they don't leave!). Having someone work with me on the technical side of our growing infrastructure honestly always felt like a football we would kick down the field with plans to address another day, it feels surreal to be there now. Chris is super smart and a scripting wizard. He's helped script out our provisioning process for new schools to the point where we can almost setup an entire custom server environment in a matter of hours with the majority of the work happening in the background while we play pinball in the office ;). Chris has also been running point on some of the escalated issues that come up in support tickets, putting another barrier between me and support.

And as if all of this wasn't good enough, we managed to steal the talents of Katie Hartraft who is a senior at UMW and currently working at the DKC as well. She's been working part time with us covering the other half of the nights/weekend shifts and rounding out a powerhouse team of folks that get the job done on support each and every day. I've been super impressed with how quickly Katie has managed to learn and master the various tools we use like WHMCS to be responsive to tickets as they come in.

Tickets by Assignee past 30 Days

So the whole reason this post was brewing was due to me checking our stats on ticket load given I've definitely been feeling the relief and sure enough it's a milestone moment. I have never held that last place spot, pretty sure since we began the company I've almost always been at the top of this list or fairly close to it. Instead you have a support team that is striking a balance to relieve me of that burden. Not to mention just look at those first response times across all hours and days! And I can imagine the next step when Jim moves back from Italy will be reduce his involvement as well.

It feels really good to build in structure to this company. I can remember the early days of folks being super concerned that Reclaim was essentially just Jim and I and what would happen if they sign a contract and then we bail? Well not only are we still around but these days I can honestly say we have redundancy and an entire team keeping this ship running day in and day out. It's a welcome change of pace that has allowed me to more acutely focus on the arcade venture and will help Jim and I both ensure that Reclaim Hosting can sustain itself beyond some passionate founders. Here's to 2020 and beyond!

Winning in Last Place

There has been a major transition in my work over the past 3 months that is worth noting and applauding. We had some goals in place last year that I would be able to remove myself as much as possible from the day to day support tickets. For a variety of reasons that goal wasn't met by the end of 2019, but with a new year we've had a lot of developments that have moved the needle dramatically.

The first big change is Meredith Fierro taking on the role interim Customer Support Manager. Meredith has been an incredible asset to Reclaim Hosting since she began as a student intern 3 years ago. Today not only is she using her wealth of institutional knowledge of the ins and outs of the business to manage our support infrastructure, but she's also risen to the challenge of learning how to manage people, time, and projects in this role and we couldn't be happier.

The second change was bringing one of our part-timers, Gordon Hawley, on a full time customer support rep. Gordon works Afternoon-Evening 5 days a week covering one of the weekend days as well and his quick rise from part time to full is testament to just how awesome he has been on the job. The hosting industry has a lot of quirks since you're essentially dealing with computers and computers can be complex odd beasts on occasion. Gordon works so well with customers, he's patient and works through issues that come up with what on the face of it might seem like relative ease. Most important for me, he's not afraid to ask for help and so I'm seeing a growing community of sharing and learning within the team that makes me very happy.

Third would be having another UMW rockstar Chris Blankenship working under me as a Junior Linux Systems Administrator. Chris was actually promoted to this role back in September after working as a part time support rep for 3 months (are you seeing a trend here? When we see people doing good work we're quick to lock them into full time jobs so they don't leave!). Having someone work with me on the technical side of our growing infrastructure honestly always felt like a football we would kick down the field with plans to address another day, it feels surreal to be there now. Chris is super smart and a scripting wizard. He's helped script out our provisioning process for new schools to the point where we can almost setup an entire custom server environment in a matter of hours with the majority of the work happening in the background while we play pinball in the office ;). Chris has also been running point on some of the escalated issues that come up in support tickets, putting another barrier between me and support.

And as if all of this wasn't good enough, we managed to steal the talents of Katie Hartraft who is a senior at UMW and currently working at the DKC as well. She's been working part time with us covering the other half of the nights/weekend shifts and rounding out a powerhouse team of folks that get the job done on support each and every day. I've been super impressed with how quickly Katie has managed to learn and master the various tools we use like WHMCS to be responsive to tickets as they come in.

Tickets by Assignee past 30 Days

So the whole reason this post was brewing was due to me checking our stats on ticket load given I've definitely been feeling the relief and sure enough it's a milestone moment. I have never held that last place spot, pretty sure since we began the company I've almost always been at the top of this list or fairly close to it. Instead you have a support team that is striking a balance to relieve me of that burden. Not to mention just look at those first response times across all hours and days! And I can imagine the next step when Jim moves back from Italy will be reduce his involvement as well.

It feels really good to build in structure to this company. I can remember the early days of folks being super concerned that Reclaim was essentially just Jim and I and what would happen if they sign a contract and then we bail? Well not only are we still around but these days I can honestly say we have redundancy and an entire team keeping this ship running day in and day out. It's a welcome change of pace that has allowed me to more acutely focus on the arcade venture and will help Jim and I both ensure that Reclaim Hosting can sustain itself beyond some passionate founders. Here's to 2020 and beyond!

Hacking the JAMstack

Hacking the JAMstack

Do you follow the Reclaim Hosting Blog? If not, now is a great time to subscribe as the whole team has been doing intentional learning topics each month and as Jim reminds everyone, The blogosphere is hot! I caught some of this late since my life is practically consumed by the arcade these days, but I wanted to participate so I joined the most recent meeting where the group reflected on files and folder structures on a hosting server. This next month is all about WordPress and the topic is timely as ever as Lauren notes that we're thinking through things like documentation and presentation in the Domain of One's Own interfaces we provide schools.

But this post is not only about WordPress, it goes a bit deeper down a rabbit hole that I've only just this past week entered in which I'm learning more about something called the JAMstack. Now, the idea is not wholly unfamiliar to me. It's very much built on the idea of the headless CMS and Jim and I got a great introduction to that via Tom, Matt, and Jeff at VCU when they showed us how they were using a blog on RamPages to drive a public VCU site on a server they had no control over as a static site pulling content from the blog via API. Jim wrote about that at https://bavatuesdays.com/headless-at-vcus-alt-lab/. So what's JAMstack? Well the term refers not to a particular CMS headless or not, but rather the idea of running static sites where the content is pregenerated. So in other words instead of pulling content on the fly via API (which might be fast for a small site, but perhaps not so when the API gives you thousands of results with a lot of stuff you don't need), a JAMstack setup would have the entire site generated as HTML and any new publish action would trigger a rebuild of that site. The files can then be stored in a git repository and hosted via CDN for performance. No PHP, Node, Go, or any other language necessary to run the site making it screaming fast and easy as hell to host.

Going back to some of the ideas driving this, it feels to me like a long running goal since even when I was at UMW was this idea of how we could share documentation across institutions via some type of centralized repository. Could we have a Github repo with tons of DoOO documentation written in Markdown and allow folks to contribute there or fork it for their own needs but also allow folks who want to use it in WP to do so but also offer static site variants for other needs? Seems a lofty goal, but I have to believe some of this technology is staring us in the face. I mean if Hugo is good enough for D'Arcy who am I to question it?! ;) I'm also taking a deeper look at the work Alan did with CC on their certifications as I think there could be some interesting stuff there.

Back to the JAMstack because this post really is an initial brain dump of where I am and not a tutorial or fully fleshed out post at all. A couple core tools that many are using for this stuff:

It's worth noting that a static site doesn't necessarily have to give up dynamic content in this scenario. The key to pulling in dynamic content (say allowing someone to search a term on your site) is using APIs to poll that specific content and inject the results into your static site using Javascript. Another huge benefit to this is security. When the end user is only interfacing with your content via a static intermediary it makes it much harder for a potential hacker to decipher how they might get access to that content.

This is super early stages but what better use of blogging than putting it all out there as a starting point to bounce off of? I've got a lot of reading and writing to do this coming month but my goal is to have some type of use case with DoOO Documentation living in Github and being served up via a static site with authoring happening in WordPress and perhaps other places as well. Let's see how this goes!

Hacking the JAMstack

Hacking the JAMstack

Do you follow the Reclaim Hosting Blog? If not, now is a great time to subscribe as the whole team has been doing intentional learning topics each month and as Jim reminds everyone, The blogosphere is hot! I caught some of this late since my life is practically consumed by the arcade these days, but I wanted to participate so I joined the most recent meeting where the group reflected on files and folder structures on a hosting server. This next month is all about WordPress and the topic is timely as ever as Lauren notes that we're thinking through things like documentation and presentation in the Domain of One's Own interfaces we provide schools.

But this post is not only about WordPress, it goes a bit deeper down a rabbit hole that I've only just this past week entered in which I'm learning more about something called the JAMstack. Now, the idea is not wholly unfamiliar to me. It's very much built on the idea of the headless CMS and Jim and I got a great introduction to that via Tom, Matt, and Jeff at VCU when they showed us how they were using a blog on RamPages to drive a public VCU site on a server they had no control over as a static site pulling content from the blog via API. Jim wrote about that at https://bavatuesdays.com/headless-at-vcus-alt-lab/. So what's JAMstack? Well the term refers not to a particular CMS headless or not, but rather the idea of running static sites where the content is pregenerated. So in other words instead of pulling content on the fly via API (which might be fast for a small site, but perhaps not so when the API gives you thousands of results with a lot of stuff you don't need), a JAMstack setup would have the entire site generated as HTML and any new publish action would trigger a rebuild of that site. The files can then be stored in a git repository and hosted via CDN for performance. No PHP, Node, Go, or any other language necessary to run the site making it screaming fast and easy as hell to host.

Going back to some of the ideas driving this, it feels to me like a long running goal since even when I was at UMW was this idea of how we could share documentation across institutions via some type of centralized repository. Could we have a Github repo with tons of DoOO documentation written in Markdown and allow folks to contribute there or fork it for their own needs but also allow folks who want to use it in WP to do so but also offer static site variants for other needs? Seems a lofty goal, but I have to believe some of this technology is staring us in the face. I mean if Hugo is good enough for D'Arcy who am I to question it?! ;) I'm also taking a deeper look at the work Alan did with CC on their certifications as I think there could be some interesting stuff there.

Back to the JAMstack because this post really is an initial brain dump of where I am and not a tutorial or fully fleshed out post at all. A couple core tools that many are using for this stuff:

It's worth noting that a static site doesn't necessarily have to give up dynamic content in this scenario. The key to pulling in dynamic content (say allowing someone to search a term on your site) is using APIs to poll that specific content and inject the results into your static site using Javascript. Another huge benefit to this is security. When the end user is only interfacing with your content via a static intermediary it makes it much harder for a potential hacker to decipher how they might get access to that content.

This is super early stages but what better use of blogging than putting it all out there as a starting point to bounce off of? I've got a lot of reading and writing to do this coming month but my goal is to have some type of use case with DoOO Documentation living in Github and being served up via a static site with authoring happening in WordPress and perhaps other places as well. Let's see how this goes!

Hacking the JAMstack

Hacking the JAMstack

Do you follow the Reclaim Hosting Blog? If not, now is a great time to subscribe as the whole team has been doing intentional learning topics each month and as Jim reminds everyone, The blogosphere is hot! I caught some of this late since my life is practically consumed by the arcade these days, but I wanted to participate so I joined the most recent meeting where the group reflected on files and folder structures on a hosting server. This next month is all about WordPress and the topic is timely as ever as Lauren notes that we're thinking through things like documentation and presentation in the Domain of One's Own interfaces we provide schools.

But this post is not only about WordPress, it goes a bit deeper down a rabbit hole that I've only just this past week entered in which I'm learning more about something called the JAMstack. Now, the idea is not wholly unfamiliar to me. It's very much built on the idea of the headless CMS and Jim and I got a great introduction to that via Tom, Matt, and Jeff at VCU when they showed us how they were using a blog on RamPages to drive a public VCU site on a server they had no control over as a static site pulling content from the blog via API. Jim wrote about that at https://bavatuesdays.com/headless-at-vcus-alt-lab/. So what's JAMstack? Well the term refers not to a particular CMS headless or not, but rather the idea of running static sites where the content is pregenerated. So in other words instead of pulling content on the fly via API (which might be fast for a small site, but perhaps not so when the API gives you thousands of results with a lot of stuff you don't need), a JAMstack setup would have the entire site generated as HTML and any new publish action would trigger a rebuild of that site. The files can then be stored in a git repository and hosted via CDN for performance. No PHP, Node, Go, or any other language necessary to run the site making it screaming fast and easy as hell to host.

Going back to some of the ideas driving this, it feels to me like a long running goal since even when I was at UMW was this idea of how we could share documentation across institutions via some type of centralized repository. Could we have a Github repo with tons of DoOO documentation written in Markdown and allow folks to contribute there or fork it for their own needs but also allow folks who want to use it in WP to do so but also offer static site variants for other needs? Seems a lofty goal, but I have to believe some of this technology is staring us in the face. I mean if Hugo is good enough for D'Arcy who am I to question it?! ;) I'm also taking a deeper look at the work Alan did with CC on their certifications as I think there could be some interesting stuff there.

Back to the JAMstack because this post really is an initial brain dump of where I am and not a tutorial or fully fleshed out post at all. A couple core tools that many are using for this stuff:

It's worth noting that a static site doesn't necessarily have to give up dynamic content in this scenario. The key to pulling in dynamic content (say allowing someone to search a term on your site) is using APIs to poll that specific content and inject the results into your static site using Javascript. Another huge benefit to this is security. When the end user is only interfacing with your content via a static intermediary it makes it much harder for a potential hacker to decipher how they might get access to that content.

This is super early stages but what better use of blogging than putting it all out there as a starting point to bounce off of? I've got a lot of reading and writing to do this coming month but my goal is to have some type of use case with DoOO Documentation living in Github and being served up via a static site with authoring happening in WordPress and perhaps other places as well. Let's see how this goes!