Fall Reclaim Roadshow at Trinity College

Interest in the Reclaim Roadshow seems to be building as we just had to close the registration for the coming Roadshow at Bryn Mawr in May as we’ve run out of seats. This is the first time we’ve sold out in the two years we’ve been doing these regional workshops—which is pretty cool. 
But do not despair because Jason Jones and the fine folks at Trinity College’s Edtech group have been kind enough to host a Roadshow on October 15th and 16th. We have already opened up registration, so if you are looking for a Domains workshop this coming fall we’ve got you covered. 

For anyone new to the Reclaim Roadshow extravaganza, we run a two-day workshop that is usually hosted by a Domains school to keep the costs down. The first day is primarily geared towards system administrators of campus-based Domain of One’s Own project. Throughout the day we do a deep-dive into managing a cPanel server (a.k.a WHM), WHMCS (the automation and client management piece of WHM), as well as the WordPress portal wherein we integrate all three—a kind of technical holy Trinity of Domains if you will ? Day 1 does come at a cost of $450 per person, and is capped at 15-20 attendees. 

Day 2, on the other hand, is free for anyone to attend, and this half of the workshop has evolved organically into a kind of user-group for Domain of One’s Own schools wherein they are able to highlight how they’re managing domains, to both provide guidance and get feedback from other folks using Domain of One’s Own. What’s more, day 2 is not so focused on the infrastructure of Domains, given there is a tremendous amount of sharing around specific projects and processes for working with staff, students, and faculty. It’s proven to be a generative experience for exploring how many different ways this project can be utilized in and out of the classroom.

You can get a rough idea of how we have designed the workshop by peeking at the schedule for Bryn Mawr’s Roadshow here. If you’re not already signed-up for May, then it may be high-time to get on bus this coming October!

Reclaim Roadshow Headed for Philly in May

It seems like just yesterday we were in Los Angeles with an awesome crew of folks talking all things Domains, but time flies when you are reclaiming the web one site at a time! We are really excited to announce our Spring roadshow that will take place May 7th and 8th at Bryn Mawr College. You can find out more and/or sign-up for a spot over on the Roadshow website. We even have a draft of the two-day schedule up for your perusal. Keep in mind day 1 is geared toward Domain of One’s Own admins and costs $450 to attend,  while day 2 is free and open to  folks who want to share the work happening at their school, or even learn more about this whole Domains thing. Day 2 is organized so that everyone can both share and learn from other DoOO schools, and generally explore the limits and possibilities on and across campuses.

I’ll be spending my down time haunting this place…that and eating cheese steaks!

LA Reclaim Roadshow

In a couple of weeks Lauren and I will be heading West to put on the second Reclaim Roadshow at Emerson College’s Sunset Blvd campus. We will be in the belly of the Hollywood beast with some state-of-the-art media digs. We have a full house again, and will be following a similar approach as we did at Skidmore College last year. We are thrilled to have 15 folks from 10 different colleges and universities that cover a diverse range of approaches to Domains. Day 1 will focus on an in-depth training around the infrastructure, diving into WHMCS and WHM, and will also feature some SPLOT love.

Image of Emerson LA on Sunset Blvd

Emerson LA on Sunset Blvd is a futuristic take on the Jawa Sandcrawler, and I love it!

Day 2 will act more as a user group where folks like Peter Sentz will share how BYU Domains has scaled to more than 10,000 users, as well as exploring how they have tried to measure its impact. And we will have a special remote panel featuring Marie Selvanadin (Georgetown), Adam Croom (University of Oklahoma), and Sundi Richard (Davidson) that will share what’s been made possible through the implementation of Domains on their campus. What’s more, we are planning on swapping tales between existing schools as well as new schools that could use some tips and tricks as they get their project of the ground. Looks like the 7 Things You Should Know about Domain of One’s Own from ELI could not come out soon enough, but more on that in another post.

Tech Noir bar from Terminator, dig the neon!

I’m really excited about meeting up with folks in LA, and not just because I love that city, but also because it is the home of Tech Noir! 

Reclaim 2018

This year has been another solid one at Reclaim Hosting, and while I have some breathing room between semesters I figured I’d try to recap of some the highlights. For a small team we tend to bite off a lot, and I’m over the moon with how much we got done this year, but there’s no question it has been an intense one.

Reclaim Video Signage

The first major project of the year was getting our video store, Reclaim Video, up and running. There was a fair bit of manual labor involved in this process, including a groovy carpet that was almost the death of me. We did most of the work in February and March, and by April we had the official launch of Reclaim Video at OER18 in Bristol which included an unveiling of the website as well as  the screening of our first “marketing” video:

The OER18 conference was another highlight for Reclaim given the entire team attended, and we enjoyed the vibe so much it looks like we’ll be heading to Ireland for OER19 this Spring to re-live the glory of our video world premiere. 

We also used the announcement of Reclaim Video as an excuse to update our website art from vinyl records to VHS tapes, which has been a fun motif for the site. I also think it’s high time we get shirts made of the new logo design, all hail Bryan Mathers.

To top off the Reclaim Video art and video-infused frenzy of the first 5 or 6 months of 2018, we invited Michael Branson Smith to Fredericksburg in June to brainstorm ways to build on top of the Reclaim Video website he designed for us. This led to some playing with Raspberry Pis, animated GIF movie posters, and beefing up the Reclaim Video stereo system. Hanging out with Michael was a definite highlight because he’s always a creative inspiration, and the playful work we did with him that weekend would carry through for us into the second half of 2018 (but more on that anon). 

Instagram Photo

But the first half of 2018 was not all VHS stores and world premieres, we also ran our second (and possibly last) Workshop of One’s Own in Fredericksburg. This workshop had 14 people and was a two-day tour de force, Tim even threw in an escape room. We also brought in Alan Levine to kick off a year-long fellowship to offer SPLOTs as one-click installs through Reclaim’s Installatron (we currently have 5 up and running).

Also of note during the Spring was the talk I gave at Re:publica in May. The conference seemed like a throwback tech conference from the aughts, and I realized then and there that my heart’s not really in the presenting game these days. Part of that is I feel like I’ve said all I need to say on Domains using that format, and the other is I’ve not been all that good at coming up with novel presentations—which means I’m re-hashing. I hope I find my mojo again because I really do enjoy presenting, but between the crunch of my day job and the realization I’ve had more than my fair share of opportunities to present—it might be a good time to lay low and plan my late career comeback in Vegas ? That said, making another guest appearance on Virtually Connecting with Christian Friedrich was a highlight:

I also got to meet an international band of #Edupunx thanks to Twitter and a coffee mug, which I am now in proud possession of ?

The last 6 months of 2018 had the same level of intensity, but in different directions. Starting in June we were strongly considering re-developingDomain of One’s Own from the ground up. This meant trying to imagine the experience outside of cPanel and WHMCS entirely in order to build the Domains infrastructure on top of a container-based application framework like Cloudron. It remains a dream, but after spending a few months exploring the requirements and seeing just exactly what this would entail we decided to shelve it for a variety of reasons. Foremost amongst which was the uncertainty of what a container-based, app-driven hosting environment would mean in terms of server resources and costs. 

June was also the time when Digital Ocean featured Reclaim in one of their case studies, which was not only awesome but also timely given we would spend much of the Summer of 2018 moving the last of our shared and Domain of One’s Own server fleet to DO. It was a 2-3 year long migration of our infrastructure, but this Summer saw the last of all significant migrations—which was both a huge accomplishment and relief at once. As an added bonus DO cut their pricing significantly to start 2018 which meant we could return the favor to our managed hosting clients—which felt good.

June was also the time Lauren officially moved into the role of Account Manager with the idea that we would be more intentional and pro-active about reaching out to schools. It’s been a learning process trying to manage over 70 schools, but building regularity of communication into our practice has been huge and Lauren has been amazing at this. Moreover, she has also been on-boarding clients, fielding interests from potential schools, setting up servers, and all while answering support tickets. The untold joys of working for a small company ?

One of the nice things about 2018 is that we showed no signs of slowing down. In fact, quite the opposite. Part of what made this such an amazing year was seeing a major uptick of interest in our managed hosting for WordPress Multisite, as well as our Professional Services offering.  Reclaim has been diversifying a bit beyond Domains and shared hosting, which means we are rounding out well while at the same time remaining focused on what we do well: academic-driven hosting. We’ve also gotten more interest from schools that want us to manage user support for their campus Domains project, which is one reason why our growth has been focused on shoring up the support experience.

We knew if we didn’t hire someone to help out in time for fall it was going to be a heavy workload for all of us, and that proved to be true. We answered upwards of 3200 tickets amongst the 4 of us since August, and I’ll be so bold to say we did an awesome job taking care of the community that takes care of us. That said, I think we’re all ready for a more systematic approach when it comes to support. So the last few months quickly became about devising and hiring a position to run our customer support. We wanted to start with someone who could take what we have and implement a support structure that moves beyond our all hands on deck approach currently so that we can begin to compartmentalize roles a bit more.

But before we hired an employee we did something even better, we hired a consultant. But not just any consultant, a Justin Webb consultant ? For those out there not keeping score,  Justin was the CIO at UMW under whom Domain of One’s Own go the green light from IT. His understanding of what DTLT was doing in 2013 was exactly what we needed at the time, and Tim and I have been in touch with Justin ever since we departed UMW. This fall provided an opportunity for us to work together once again, and the immediate needs in September and October was helping us solidify various IT requirements around security, accessibility, and the like. It’s a lot of work to manage those requests, and having a university-trained CIO to consult on these issues has been invaluable. But that was just the beginning, Justin also took over the job search for the Customer Support Manager position, and right before Christmas we officially hired that position—which is a huge win of 2018. 

As Reclaim turned five this year the strange realization that we’re not going anywhere has started to settle in. We have a solid customer base; we provide an excellent service at an affordable service; and people continue to come to us at a frequency that’s increasing by the day. Three years ago when I jumped ship at UMW and struck out for the territories, I wondered if we would make it this far. There were some highs and lows, as well as months of feast or famine as we figured out getting paid and managing accounts, but what amazes me as 2018 draws to a close is that we have all that in hand, and everything over the past 6 months points to the fact that we may be on the cusp of a growth spurt—and that is both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. We continue to lead with support, which is what has distinguished us thus far, and while we’re not actively pursuing new clients, they’re coming regardless. I like that we have grown steadily since 2013 at a pace that has allowed us to move cautiously into broader vistas—and I’d like to see that carry over in 2019. It remains a point of pride that we have not taken any investment money, remaining free to call the shots about what we will and won’t do. That makes Reclaim special for me, I think about the work we do and I can honestly say it’s genuine; we do not price gouge, we’ve never up-sold anyone (rather the opposite), and we do next to no marketing outside resurrecting a 1980s-era video store. 

I think there are just a few last points I need to make before this never-ending post comes to a close…. 

Sponsoring the Learning on/with the Open Web Conference (OWLTEH) at Coventry in October was another highlight, working with the folks at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab is always a pleasure, and the OWLTEH event at Coventry’s Transportation Museum was a total blast. The highlight for me was organizing a panel with Anne-Marie Scott and TOny Hirst to talk about the future of edtech infrastructure and Jupyter Notebooks. 

Anne-Marie and Tony were on a serious role, and it was a eye-opening both listening to them for that hour, but then talking with them both before and after OWLTEH. The folks in the UK edtech scene are so awesome, and getting to spend time with so many of them over that two days was a real treat. The Jupyter Notebook phenomemon is not going anywhere, and Tony’s newsletter “Tracking Jupyter” is something I want to spend my coming week off catching up on. Also, I still want to blog my experience at OWLTEH with Anne-Marie and Tony, but it’s been hard cause I feel like I actually have to play with this stuff and I have not had the time just yet…soon. What’s more, it’s hard to write about something that Anne-Marie already has well in hand on her blog

In November we were all set to our second Workshop of One’s Own in Fredericksburg, but in September we took Justin’s advice and scrapped that model and moved towards regional workshops. One of the struggles of being so locked into support is we don’t do as much of the outreach as we could/should. That changed this fall with our first Reclaim Roadshow at Skidmore College in early November. You can read more about it here, but the long and the short of it is we are running regional events that pair a workshop  for admins Domain of One’s Own with a user group/unconference event around a theme. The next one will be at Michigan State University on February 21st and 22nd focused around the idea of Digital Presence, you can read more about it here and here. The Skidmore Roadshow was a total blast, and I am very much looking forward to Michigan, and after a chat with Bryan Mathers we have an organizing aesthetic/metaphor for the Roadshow which I love!

I hope in 2019 we can actually create a short animated piece around a topic, and re-watching Scooby-Doo the last few days at the “Mine Your Own Business” episode from season 1 is ripe for a re-write, especially the Miner 49er character:

DataMiner 49er anyone? I mean this episode can almost re-write itself, they even discover the “new gold” in the haunted mine, oil! Let me count the ways.

Instagram Photo

Finally, we continue to have some fun with the office space. beyond Reclaim Video. After the Roadshow in Skidmore, Tim and I started doubling down on turning part of the office into a makerspace. Tim’s history with UMW’s early venture into makerspaces is well documented, and we finally bit the bullet and got a pretty bitchin’ 3D printer. And we put it to immediate use given I came back from the Victoria & Albert Video Games exhibition in London with an idea for building a DIY video game based on Line Wobbler, and it just so happens one of the requirements was to 3D print the joystick case.

We also re-connected with George Meadows from UMW (a lot of good re-connecting this year!) who was as jazzed as us about rekindling our shared makerspace history. Although, to be fair, George has not stopped pushing on this technology for teaching and learning since 2012, and the story of how he got 3D printing, Arduino, and a whole variety of cool technologies in the Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania K12 school systems is still to be told—some amazing work he did in that regard. 

Instagram Photo

We also did some more work on the office space. We had some dead space behind Reclaim Video that was essentially transitional storage space that now have two quiet booths for phone calls which was desperately needed by the folks at CoWork, as well as some cleaned up walls and a fresh coat of paint for the new makerspace:

I am just realizing I forgot our Reclaim Today streaming video sessions (we did 13 or so), but I am running out of ink and energy on this one. Reclaim Today is something we need to jumpstart in the Spring, but world enough and time, right? For now that’s going to have to do, although I am sure there is much I left out. Let me end by simply recognizing how lucky I am to have been part of Reclaim for the last 5 and a half years and to work with so many amazing folks. I am really looking forward to 2019, the year when Reclaim Video brings back the glory days of the Saturday Morning Cartoon to edtech :).

Reclaim Roadshow at MSU: the Ghost of Digital Presence

We are happy to announce our second Reclaim Roadshow at Michigan State University on February 21st and 22nd of next year. As I already noted in my last post, I’m pretty thrilled with the Scooby-Doo inspired aesthetic we dreamed up for our Roadshows, and this is the first time we are putting into action. In fact, you can head over to the site and see how it’s “rolled out.” 

I would also recommend reading Lauren’s post on her creation process of the website for the Roadshow, which simply pops! But lest this devolve into a backslapping post about how awesome the art is (there will be plenty more posts about that ? ) it might be helpful to talk a bit about this event. When we were considering the Roadshow originally we actually reached out to Michigan State first given the great work Chris Long, Kristen Mapes and Scott Schopieray have done to promote the idea of Digital Presence for their faculty and graduate students. They really nailed the concept with a short video they produce a couple of years ago that sums up their vision quite well:

Originally MSU was going to be our first Roadshow, but when the opportunity to try it out at Skidmore College availed itself we grabbed it, and I am glad we did because I think the experience will make the MSU Roadshow that much better. The plan for February is that we will run a focused workshop on February 21st that will be an opportunity for folks managing Domains at their campus (or who will soon be) to get an in-depth look at the backend of the system. If you are interested in this workshop you can register here.

On February 22nd (day 2) the good folks at MSU will be organizing a day-long  event loosely organized around the topic of Digital Presence. I am excited about the unconference approach, and it is something quite different from what we did at Skidmore College. MSU recently hired Kathleen Fitzpatrick as the Director of Digital Humanities and her pushing on academia reclaiming their web presence for publishing and beyond with her work at the MLA with Commons in a Box offers a unique and exciting opportunity to bring together folks exploring the intersections of Digital Humanities, the Indie Web, and broader ideas of digital identity. I’m getting excited just writing about it. So, if you have no interest in the workshop, but want to come for a day-long conference dealing with a wide range of concerns around the specter of digital presence (you like what I did there?) then sign-up for day 2 and come join us at MSU.

Well, that’s it for now, I need to get this officially announced before the holidays, but I’ll be sure to say more later next week after the Christmas dust settles to start drumming up interest in what promises to be a pretty awesome Roadshow.

Reclaim Roadshows and the Specter of ds106

You know it has been a busy week (month, fall, year) when it takes 3 days to blog the latest Bryan Mathers magic for Reclaim Hosting, but such is life as a successful businessman. In fact, I’m putting the cart before the horse here a bit by blogging about the art for our next Roadshow (which will be at Michigan State University in late February, but more on that in my next post) before officially announcing the event, but such is life in the fast lane of corporate edtech. 

Anyway, following on the fun we had at Skidmore College with our first Roadshow we doubled-down with Michigan State for what will be our second Roadshow, and while we were consolidating some of the details it occurred to me we really need some art for these events. For me it is always aesthetic first, truth and details later. So, two weeks ago Lauren and I reached out to Bryan and he was kind enough to turn around a meeting within a few days and we had our discussion. We laid out what the Roadshow was all about, essentially it’s a way for Reclaim to hit the road and bring together folks in specific regions of the US (and soon beyond?!) to provide targeted training to folks who could not make it to our workshop. What’s more, we built in a second day to bring together current Domain of One’s Own schools in the region to share the work they’re doing. And, as we quickly learned at Skidmore, it also provides a unique opportunity for those schools who are interested in exploring Domains to get an on-the-ground look at how it is being used. 

So, we gave Bryan the overview and the discussion got underway and what seems like almost immediately we stumbled on what might be the best Reclaim Hosting marketing campaign to date (I’m little more than a crass marketer after all, but with a heart of gold—unlike all those other thought leaders!). We started talking about road tripping for Reclaim and I could not help but think of the bus…which made me think of the brilliant grant proposal (at the goading of Brian Lamb) we submitted under the aegis of ds106 to the Gates Foundation back in the day to fund a ds106 bus. They couldn’t see the magic, surprisingly, but luckily if you will it, it is no dream…at least on paper. The bus has been re-animated as a Reclaim Roadshow Mystery Van a la Scooby Doo, and it is so damned beautiful I wanna cry!

I’ll talk more about the details around the Ghost of Digital Presence title in my next post, but you get a sense how each Roadshow can be its own episode with various “Monsters of EdTech” (borrowing from the now canonical Audrey Watters after the other day’s “I’m f**king done” announcement—punk rock) as topical villains to animate discussion. In fact, it only makes sense this will all be produced by Reclaim Video. The last discussion I had with Bryan was thinking through what an animated episode of an actual Reclaim Roadshow would look like—maybe Audrey would “ghost write” an episode? So, in order to kickstart some ideas I ordered the first two seasons (1969 and 1970) of Scooby Doo on DVD for holiday watching with the kids, and one of my resolutions for 2019 will be to see if we can create a Saturday Morning Animation series of Edtech. This also touches on another video project I have been wanting to teach, and even wrote an unnecessarily long email to Martin Weller about my ideas around video and teaching, but I should probably save that discussion for another post given this is already running long. 

If nothing else, let this post attest to the fact that Bryan Mathers is an endless fount of creative awesome!