Asana Workflows

Consider this post to be my unofficial love letter to Asana. If that’s not your thing, feel free to skip along to something else. You’ve been warned. :)

A lot of my role in operations boils down to evaluating workflows. (Communication pathways, task progress, scheduling, UI inefficiencies, project pipelines, team workloads, etc.) I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to understand the work in front of us. How/where/why is the work happening? How can we improve the experience for ourselves, the workers, and for our community, the people benefiting from the work? What keeps us going, and are we regularly reflecting on that, and then tweaking our workflows with these common goals in mind?

These questions are much too large for a single blog post, but I thought I’d share some ways that I oversee work and stay organized at Reclaim. I’ll save calendars, slack, and email structuring for another day and will focus today’s post on how I work specifically with Asana. My two disclaimers before beginning: Not all Reclaim work is recorded in Asana, so when looking at Asana metrics, for example, I keep that in mind. Secondly, I recognize that what works for me may not always work for others, but perhaps it may help someone currently grappling with their own workflows.

Out of the box, Asana is a free to-do list software that easily allows you to track progress, separate tasks into separate projects, and manage long-term projects over time. After using Asana for quite some time (oh hey, 2016 Lauren) Reclaim Hosting now pays a monthly subscription to separate projects into various teams, automate workflows, and take advantage of custom views, forms, templates, and reporting options. This is entirely worth it for us, and Asana has become an integral part of the way work happens at Reclaim.

Home View

When I log on for a working day, I always open Email, Slack, and Asana. The Home page in Asana has improved quite a bit over the years, and has now become a super relevant and helpful space for me. At a quick glance, I can see my upcoming tasks, no matter the project they’re associated with, as well as any projects that I’ve favorited. There’s a widget for tasks that I’ve delegated to others so I can easily glance at task progress from a bird’s eye view. I also love the private notepad widget, and use this regularly during meetings to jot down notes that I will need to later turn into tasks. Any personal tasks that come out of meetings go straight into the top left “My Priorities” widget where I can plug them into projects and schedule deadlines for myself.

Team & Project Views

The infrastructure team space is particularly impressive, don’t you think?

Each Reclaim team has their own section inside the larger workspace where they can track recurring tasks, roadmap projects, internal work requests, and more. I’m also linking back to this post on retiring BYU Domains for a better sense of how we’re using Asana on per-project basis. It has been a huge game changer to see workloads across the company like this. What’s more, this makes a great introduction for new employees, or even for other teams that are looking to collaborate.

My Tasks View

In my personal tasks page, I have sections for my larger ideas and ongoing to-do lists. This space changes often and is usually quite messy. I have a weekly section that I update frequently, and then usually log larger ideas that are said/thought in passing in sections below. I make intentional decisions to take tasks off my plate when they’re no longer relevant/I don’t have time for them, and then have a monthly recurring task to revisit my back-burner list to make sure it still makes sense. If the tasks there are no longer important enough to revisit, they’re archived or deleted.

Tags View

One of the most underutilized features of Asana, in my opinion, are tags. For example, I have a tag called “Internal Company Calendar” that I’m able to add to various tasks, regardless of the project or team they are associated with. This allows me to hand-pick and follow along with any crucial deadlines. I can easily view all tasks with this tag in a list or calendar format, keep an eye on larger company milestones, and schedule around them or adjust expectations. What’s more, you can sync an Asana tag to your calendar, so I’ve got the “Internal Company Calendar” tag pulled into my calendar app. It’s beautiful.

Reporting

For this section, I must start by saying that I have a love/hate relationship with reporting or “assessment” of any kind. For the most part, the work we do has a human element that is almost always overlooked or downplayed when looking at just the numbers. I will also reiterate that Asana is only used for a portion of our work, so reporting insights must of course be observed with a grain of salt.

That said, Asana has some pretty slick reporting options which have been fun to explore recently. And coming from someone who just took a Zendesk Support Analytics course that was basically writing math equations, I appreciate Asana’s simplicity. It’s helpful to see trends in the types of tasks that are being submitted as internal work requests to our infrastructure team, for example. I can answer questions like: how many work requests are coming in as emergencies? Are there patterns there that are indicative of a larger issue, or would there be an opportunity for additional training? How many of our work requests are waiting on factors outside of our control?

• • •

In the world of operations, one of my main goals is to try to predict real problems before they happen and then take steps to prevent them. Asana not only allows me to keep track of a lot of moving parts that I could simply not keep in my head otherwise, but I can do it efficiently and intentionally.

OER22: Building Connections with Virtual Teams

Last week I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Maren Deepwell at the OER22 Conference about Building Connections with Virtual Teams.

This session was actually an extension of a conversation Maren and I had on the radio about leading and working with teams virtually, so it was really fun to make it a part of OER22 as well. We started first by introducing ourselves and breaking down the modes of working, which Maren brilliantly shares in the following visual:

Graphic showing an overview of different Modes of Working – CC-BY by Dr Maren Deepwell, Leading Virtual Teams (2022)

No matter your mode of working, whether fully remote or in a hybrid environment, we argued that you would likely encounter challenges that tend to circle back to the 4 “Cs”:

  • The larger Culture of a team: your shared approach to work based on core values — are these readily available? The overall mission that drives your team…is it clear?
  • The methods by which you’re Connecting as a team: is everyone on the same page? Are you aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses? Do you know what your teammates are working on, what they’re struggling with?
  • How your team is being Cared for: is there a general sense of trust and understanding? Are folks supported or encouraged to have work/life balance? Is work being celebrated? Or taking a step back even further… How is work being seen in a remote environment?
  • How the team is Communicating: does your team know where to go to ask for help? If they’re offline when a decision is made, how is that communicated?

Maren and I then spoke about our personal experiences with the above by considering our own challenges, offering strategies that have proved successful, and sharing tools and best practices for building connections in virtual spaces. The full conversation can be found here and embedded below if you want to check it out:

Chat with Brian Lamb: Reclaim Hosting & Open Ed Tech

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Brian Lamb about Open Ed Tech in general and where Reclaim Hosting fits into the picture. Brian is working alongside Anne-Marie Scott to develop an open course for KPU’s Professional Program in Open Education. The course they are building is called Open Educational Technologies, and will provide a view into some of the technologies used in open education and how they support open pedagogies. The full description can be found below:

The full course description can be found here: kpu.ca/cps/open-education

The course trailer can also be found here:

How exciting, right?

In the learning module, Creating and supporting open digital learning environments, Brian and Anne-Marie aim to provide an overview of “the different types of organizations that promote, develop and sustain open-source technologies in education. This may include a single developer who chooses to release their code openly, right up to large multi-institutional and national initiatives designed to support open education technologies at scale.”

Brian and Anne-Marie are currently gathering audio interviews to offer different perspectives on this topic, and I am honored to be included in the bunch! In the half-hour audio interview below, Brian and I spoke about Reclaim Hosting’s larger mission, the larger purpose of Domain of One’s Own, how Reclaim Hosting supports and works with open source technologies, transparent communication, instructional tech, and more.

We used Zencastr to record which was really fantastic & super easy to use. I will now definitely be looking for excuses to use this for future projects, especially since it looks like they’re rolling out an HD video recording option too.

Thanks for including me in the fun, Brian. Now I just need the course to be released to I can sign up!

Launching Instructional Tech

Last week, Reclaim Hosting reached a big milestone: launching a new Instructional Technology service. Our team has been working on this for months, and you can read my some of my thoughts on what it has meant to embed Instructional Tech into the fabric of Reclaim here. For today’s post, and for the next few weeks, I think it is important that we sit with the “what” and “why” before jumping into the “how.” Don’t get me wrong, “how” we’re delivering Instructional Tech is an essential discussion and one that deserves a moment in the sun, but reserving time to honor “why” we’re doing this, and “what” it is we’re actually doing? That comes first!

This was my thought process when designing out the initial website. I wanted it to feel like an introduction… to break down the “why” and then dive a little deeper into what’s possible.

In One Sentence

The header section makes the overview plain as day: Simply put, this is professional development and intentional community support built specifically with Educational Technologists in mind.

The mission section that comes next may be helpful for our community, but it was equally helpful for our team to write. This practice got us on the same page internally, and allowed us to sit with questions like, Why do we want to do this? What are we committing to? Who is this for? What are the goals?

The Larger Mission

We are committed to helping educational technologists do what they do best.

Reclaim Hosting has been providing edtech infrastructure for higher ed for almost 10 years. Now we want to work more directly with the people on the ground and build a broader professional development community for instructional technologists. These platforms are only as interesting as the people behind them, and it’s our goal to create a structure to help edtechs explore, question, learn, and build the future of teaching and learning together. We want to be a niche support hub and learning community for curious minds and creative tinkerers, whether you have a background in Instructional Design, advanced IT Support, or sit somewhere in between like most Instructional Technologists. Join as we explore what’s possible.

What’s Included

I had a lot of fun during the brainstorming phase while we were putting together the actual service plan. In short, Instructional Tech encompasses a lot of the work that Reclaim Hosting has already been doing (the Reclaim Roadshow, for example) except now at a larger scale: more structure, more consistent events, a wider breadth of learning topics, and a lively community space everywhere in between. Breaking that down, Instructional Tech at Reclaim includes:

  1. Consistent, repeating workshops for Domain of One’s Own and WordPress Multisite projects that you can count on for onboarding and refreshers.
  2. Flex Courses, usually spanning the length of a month, on a varying range of topics like docker containers, open source tools, gravity forms, and more.
  3. “Domains Pen Pals” – you’ll be introduced to folks from other schools with similar goals & interests to strategize and learn alongside each other.

Event Calendar

In the next section I broke down the calendar of events a little further by just barely getting into the “how” territory in order to help new viewers begin to conceptualize what’s possible. Instructional Tech is exciting for us because we’ll have the opportunity to work with key players in the community to help lead workshops and flex courses. Tom Woodward will be leading our Flex Course on Gravity Forms, which I’m particularly stoked about, as well as helping run our workshops on WordPress Multisite throughout the year. My hope is that, over time, we will have a new person headlining the flex courses each month so that we can highlight a diverse group of individuals doing cool stuff.

This section of the site also allowed me to really frame out a space for Reclaim Hosting Events (reclaimhosting.com/events) in general, and even play with a new plugin called The Events Calendar. The plugin is super slick and incredibly easy to work with. We have the Pro version so we can embed the calendar elsewhere, add in recurring events for newsletter publications, highlight hybrid events, and more. There’s still a lot of customizing that can be done here, and I’ll be excited to see this space grow over time.

Community

I’m quite excited for the Instructional Tech Discord server, which is being rolled out as a part of this larger service to help build intentional community support. When running workshops, conferences, and in-person training events, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard things like, “If only there was a way to get all DoOO Libraries together to talk about X” or “I’d love to see how other schools are working with SPLOTs” or “How are other WPMS schools using plugins?” In the past we’ve tried to point folks to our community forums as a place for these conversations, but ultimately that space has felt bulky, inflexible, and in some ways too open for strategic, sensitive conversations. Oppositely, the Discord environment has been amazing in past virtual events and has allowed folks to speak more frankly and with more personality. So much so, that as events are ending, we have been have asked to keep Discord up and running for future conversations. Managing a Discord server does require some overhead, so it was never something Reclaim could agree to long term for a past event.

Now, by having a single Discord server for all events and Domains PenPals, as well as a steady stream of blog posts, tweets, and links to various resources, we’re excited to keep this one around for the long haul to use during and between events throughout the year. Anyone will be able to get access to the Discord server to introduce themselves, share ideas & resources, and hangout in future community chats. Folks that are a part of the larger Instructional Tech professional development subscription will then have full access to event & domains penpal channels as well. :) Looking forward to sharing more on this in future posts.

Call to Action & Coming Soon

In the final section of the page, I’ve highlighted our next event (and first in the larger ProfDev subscription) as well as a link to share interest in learning more about what’s possible.

I think this webpage gives a great overview about Instructional Tech at Reclaim Hosting, as well as a look into what’s coming soon. I like that there’s room to grow, and we’ve built in flexibility on the front end to add in more events, training opportunities, and room for community engagement as this grows. Additionally, I also have to take a moment to shout out Bryan Mathers, who has once again nailed it in the art department. The art alone deserves a separate post. :)

Consolidating Workshop Event Sites

In preparation for exciting announcements about Instructional Technology at Reclaim Hosting, I thought it was finally time to consolidate past workshop event sites. If tinkering around on the web has taught me anything, it’s that if you’re not careful about how you are setting up digital projects from the start, they’ll come back to haunt you later in life. (Sort of like the Ghost of Digital Presence event poster, haha!) A series of one-off decisions & repeating workshop events over the years all culminated to a single moment last week where I was left looking at this:

There were 6 duplicated WordPress installs.

I had essentially duplicated a new WordPress site for every Roadshow workshop event since 2018ish, and as you can see, they were all out of date. Certainly not a sustainable choice, but it worked for me at the time. However now Reclaim is moving into a fresh era where workshop events & materials will become much more consistent and readily available, so my site structures needed to get with the times, too.

Given these are simple WordPress sites, I could’ve flattened them into static html pretty easily, but two things stopped me:

  1. Personally, I really prefer having the Installatron user interface be an accurate representation of what’s in my File Manager
  2. The site designs were nothing to write home about. I was just interested in preserving the event itineraries and internal data about event attendees.

Because of the above, it made more sense for me to export any registrant data to store and use separately, and then to bring an archive of previous event itineraries into the fold of one main event site: roadshow.reclaimhosting.com/events. For each site that I wanted to consolidate, I created a single page on the new /events install like roadshow.reclaimhosting.com/events/skidmore.

On each new workshop page like /events/skidmore, I brought over all original event descriptions and images. I then added a Page Break like the one shown in the screenshot above and then subsequently added the event agenda information. After publishing, each new event page look something like this:

In the “pages” section at the bottom, you can now click on Page 2 to see the event agendas:

Once bringing over this information for each site, I copied over all Woo Commerce registration information into a spreadsheet in Google Drive. I also updated the original WordPress installs and took one final Installatron backup:

Each event has a folder in drive with a site backup & attendee info

The final piece of the puzzle here was to redirect traffic from old URLs to new URLs. I did this in cPanel > Domains > Redirects:

Once all redirects were in place I deleted the original site installs. You can now see a list of previous Reclaim Roadshow workshops here: roadshow.reclaimhosting.com/events/previous-workshops.

Up next, possibly: dealing with domain structures. We have some domains like workshop.reclaimhosting.com, roadshow.reclaimhosting.com, and domains.reclaimhosting.com that may need an updated home, but I’ll save that conversation for another day!

Instructional Tech at Reclaim Hosting: a Crossover with Everything

This post will likely be less organized, and more of a messy stream of consciousness has I make sense of the new Instructional Tech team/offering/thing at Reclaim Hosting. Documenting my way of thinking at a given time is challenging, but I think this is necessary for reflection and later use.


We have been toying with the idea of an instructional tech offering or service at Reclaim Hosting for some time, but our team has been too small in the past to have the capacity to really own or do it justice. But now that the Instructional Tech thing is beginning to take shape (and more on that in a minute) I’m finding that a lot of the work we’ve already been doing is further reinforcing this idea. We’ve dabbled in workshops & trainings. I’ve sent out (infrequent) newsletters to admins about the “happenings” at Reclaim. We have open forums to engage with the community. Our support has always gone above and beyond, whether you pay us $30/year or $3,000/year. So seeing these common themes with the budding working of Instructional Tech at Reclaim has already been cool to witness in and of itself.

As with anything though, there’s a balance with what we’ve been able to take on over the years, and our time has more or less been filled with keeping the ship afloat. Newsletters haven’t been as consistent as I would’ve liked. Support documentation needed to be refreshed. We’ve had to set boundaries around what we can and can’t support, and we’re protective with our time in terms of the projects that we take on. Until recently, due to time and tech constraints, we’ve had to say “no” to various things like hosting certain applications that are not compatible in a cPanel environment, acting as a consultant on a unique digital project, or offering our support/insight for edge cases.

While Instructional Tech at Reclaim is still very new, one immediately clear change that I’m seeing is that we’re now able to say “yes” to more. “Yes” to unique digital projects in Reclaim Cloud, “yes” to more workshops/meetings/areas for community engagement. “Yes” to consistent newsletters. That part of Instructional Tech is already really cool. I’ve also really enjoyed being apart of the Instructional Tech team meetings each week, which usually run close to two hours, and are filled with “what if we did this” type conversations. All the ideas that are brimming at the surface brings a newfound energy to Reclaim, which personally for me is always welcomed. I’ve been with Reclaim for coming up on seven years now, so finding new elements of inspiration is crucial for my personal happiness.

It seems like others are excited too. We’ve taken a few early meetings with some institutions to check in and see how they’re doing, and also introduce or share our ideas about Instructional Tech at Reclaim. I’m excited to document this more in future posts.

Now if I put my business hat on for a moment, I want to make sure we’re balancing the amount of new work we’re taking on, so we can build sustainable internal practices and avoid burnout. In order to do Instructional Tech at Reclaim right, it needs to be slow, steady, and acheivable. There is no doubt that Reclaim Hosting is busy, so balancing the new excitement with realistic goals for our team is something that I’m thinking through on an almost daily basis. I want to be mindful of the work that we’re taking on, and I want to make sure that we’re not biting off more than we can chew. Where is the work happening? For instance, the work doesn’t only happen in an hour long meeting with a school. There’s prep time beforehand, internal conversations or diagnosis with our Infrastructure team, post follow up work, and then any research or tasks that come as a result of the meeting itself. And if 2-3 Reclaim team members are on the call, that work is doubled or tripled.

As for now, we’re still in an exploratory phase of seeing what works and what doesn’t work. In these moments, I find that leaning into the community and being transparent as possible is the best way forward. We have to be open about how Instructional Tech at Reclaim is new, that we’re still learning and open to feedback, and we want to know what the community needs. I’m a very visual person, so for me, this means that Reclaim should be “stepping off the pedestal” so to speak (not that we like being there in the first place), and instead sitting around a table with other institutions, sleeves rolled up, and ready to work hard alongside everyone else. I’ve found that folks are much more receptive to that approach, vs. Reclaim Hosting walking in, chest puffed out, acting like we have a solution for every problem.

I also know that the exploratory phase means that we’ll likely be saying “yes” to a lot more at first, and then ultimately reining it in once we understand where Reclaim Hosting services can be most useful or effective. In our most recent brainstorming meeting about this, our ideas have landed on the following:

  • Workshops, targeted and built for a school’s unique set of needs
  • Additional training for new DoOO institutions. (Ok so you have DoOO… now what?)
  • One-off consultative meetings about growing digital projects on campus, account cleanup, migration strategies, or something custom
  • Professional Development/one-off consultation meetings with Edtech & Faculty
  • Focusing on Reclaim Cloud containers and docker
  • Tools for virtual/hybrid learning or meetings/workshops– OBS, StreamYard, YouTube Live, PeerTube
  • Increased Managed WordPress Multisite support via workshops, documentation
  • Monthly consultative meetings with Admins- regular checking in, feedback, strategizing
  • Skilled Tasks: Site/Content Archival, Community Showcase Site, best practices for accessibility
  • Monthly Community Chat, monthly newsletters

See what I mean? Reclaim has never had a problem with ideas. :) We just now have to hone in on what makes sense & what would be most valuable or helpful for our Community. Also, charging for some of this stuff seems weird. I think it’s important for Reclaim Hosting to still go “above and beyond” without putting everything behind a paywall, but where that paywall lies is still up in the air. While writing this, the following visual came to mind:

In short, Instructional Tech will allow us to do more.

The other large shift I’m seeing is more of an internal one; a culture shift amongst the Reclaim Hosting team. If you look at the above bullet point list, everything listed there boils down to support. Instructional Tech is support. There’s also a crossover between Instructional Tech and our Sales/Account Management team, in terms of understanding relationships and backstories, offering helpful recommendations, and being apart of initial onboarding conversations. There’s a lot of instructional tech work that our Sales/Account Management team has already been doing as well, like workshops, trainings, and consultative meetings. Finally, for every edge case and unique digital project that needs to diagnosed and/or hosted at Reclaim, our Infrastructure team plays an essential role in making sure these projects are running successfully. What’s more, we look to our Infrastructure team to help facilitate internal professional development trainings. Instructional Tech bleeds into everything that we already do externally, but also internally as well. So, it makes sense that this feels like more than just a new service we’re providing. It’s changing the way that we work internally to undo perceptions, change mindsets, and create purposeful crossover amongst the teams. I really believe that the introduction of Instructional Tech at Reclaim will not only provide more pathways of engagement for our community, but also for our employees.

To end, I’ll mention that Reclaim’s second Community Chat will take place tomorrow, Feb 9, and I don’t think it could come at a better time. The chat is called “State of Reclaim” and all teams will be invited to participate & speak briefly about the work that they’re doing, amongst other things. I’m looking forward to it!


Blog Post Featured Image: “over the sun” by Meyer Felix is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Thank You, BYU Domains

Last Summer, Jim and I met with the administrators of BYU domains, Nate Walton, Joe Hadfield, and Jason Renfro and were told that BYU and the Office of IT would be retiring the BYU Domains service at the end of December 2021. Reclaim Hosting has worked very closely with BYU over the last six years to bring Domain of One’s Own onto campus and into classrooms. Over that time, BYU Domains grew to become our largest Domain of One’s Own institution to date with over 14,000 users, all of which received their own Top Level Domain. This is no doubt attributed to the work that Nate, Joe, and Jason have carried out, as well as folks like Peter Sentz and an entire team of student workers and members of OIT have done to support the initiative. It as been insanely cool to watch BYU Domains scale over the years, and Reclaim Hosting is incredibly lucky to have worked with such a fantastic partner while discovering the potential of Domain of One’s Own.

All good things do come to an end, and through this blog post I hope to acknowledge the other side of this job which isn’t commonly addressed: Decommissioning Domain of One’s Own. This post will be a deep dive of this work. After we were told that BYU OIT would be reallocating resources to other services, we immediately began brainstorming ways to make sure that 14 servers’ worth of users would have a seamless transition to whatever came next. That was, and has continued to remain, priority number one.

Phase One: Brainstorming & Prep

Reclaim Hosting has existing migration strategies in place for end users that are looking to move away from Domain of One’s Own. In short, they can grab a backup of their cPanel and take it with them to any number of hosting companies, or they can sign up for a Shared Hosting account at Reclaim Hosting and we’ll migrate their content for free. Over the years, we have carried out hundreds of migrations from graduating BYU students looking to continue hosting their digital projects. While this works on an individual basis we knew that this workflow would not scale; it would overwhelm our support team and it would require work from each user to sign up for an account at Reclaim.

I went to the drawing board two or three times to come up with the best way forward. After multiple brainstorming meetings with Jim, Tim, and the BYU Team, we landed on the following:

Reclaim Hosting would take over all BYU Domains accounts by rebranding existing infrastructure, bringing servers into the Reclaim Shared Hosting fold. Eventually, Reclaim would consolidate active accounts into existing Shared Hosting servers.

My other considerations:

  • Timelines. We needed to be able to “flip the switch” for end users no later than end of December/beginning of January. We had to consider domain renewal dates at the registrar, new signups at the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester, and time for communication and reminders to users.
  • Language. Given we were merging the support of two teams (BYU OIT and Reclaim Hosting) it was important to make sure everyone was on the same page about when and what was happening. We also needed to be unified in how it was announced to users in mass email, support tickets, and support documentation.
  • Infrastructure Configuration. By “adopting” BYU servers and bringing accounts into our Shared Hosting fold, we would have to evaluate the disk usage of all accounts and then assign each account to one of our Shared Hosting plans. Moving away from Single Sign On and into Client Area Portal was also something we had to work through.
  • Support. By taking over BYU Domains at the end of the year, how would that impact our support ticket numbers? We would need to look to BYU for this one to get a sense of their support analytics, and how that would translate as Reclaim took over ownership.
  • Edge Cases. Not everyone would fit the mold of our shared hosting plans when it came to storage and/or account resources. Additionally, BYU was looking to carry on funding the hosting costs for larger departmental sites. We had to have a way to “flag” or separate the edge cases from the mix.

Given all the moving parts, I needed a place to manage simultaneous tasks and project milestones, delegate work, keep track of our progress, and stay in constant communication with everyone. Asana became my backbone for all Reclaim Hosting work, and then I stayed in communication with BYU using email, Google Drive, and good ol’ fashioned spreadsheets.

This is a screenshot of the Overview Tab of the Asana Project. Looking back now, its pretty cool to see the timeline on the righthand sidebar: when the project was created all the way through company-wide communication.

Phase Two: Planning and “Flipping the Switch”

This is where the real work began! That summer we asked BYU Admins to begin culling through all existing accounts and clear out/remove anyone that no longer needed a cPanel account. As with any DoOO Institution, we helped in this case by receiving a .csv of accounts to be removed, backing up their accounts one last time, and then terminating them in bulk. Through this process, we were able to consolidate 14 servers down into 10 servers. Getting rid of the fluff was the first step in preparing for the changeover to Reclaim.

Next, we decided on “End of Life” Timeline. Here is a rough outline of what worked for both teams:

  • Sept 1 – Nov 1: BYU to communicate changes to entire community
  • Sept 15 – Nov 15: Flag all byu.edu domains “edge cases”
  • Oct 1: Turning off new signups
  • Nov 1: Have all email templates, support macros & documentation drafted to review with BYU Admins
  • Nov 15: Make changes to language as needed
  • Dec 1: Reclaim’s voice introduced in a “Here’s what’s coming” email
  • Dec 20: Publish Support Articles
  • Dec 27-31: Rebrand infrastructure/logins to Reclaim Hosting
  • Jan 3: Generate Invoices, Generate passwords, Send an Account welcome email to all users
  • Jan 3 – Feb 3: Tackle incoming support requests
  • Jan 27 – Feb 2: Invoice Reminder emails
  • Feb 3: Suspend unpaid accounts, notify users
  • Feb 3 – March 3: Tackle incoming Support Requests around suspended sites
  • Feb 7-11: Tally up list of users that have paid after initial 30 days, plan for system migrations in the new year
  • Feb 25: Account Pending Termination email
  • Mar 3: Backup and terminate suspended accounts
  • Mar 3-31: Tackle Incoming Support Requests around terminated sites, restore as needed
  • March – May: Server consolidation as needed to migrate active accounts into existing Shared Hosting servers

As you can see from the timeline, the months leading up were more or less about communicating upcoming changes, introducing Reclaim Hosting to BYU Domains users, and making sure our team had a solid game plan for the change of ownership. We got all communication written and approved, notified and prepped the support team for incoming tickets, and made sure Infrastructure had what they needed in order to test out changes and be ready for game time by end of year. As of January 3, we “flipped the switch” and are now in the phase of tackling support requests. This means letting folks adjust to the change, ask questions about what hosting looks like at Reclaim, and understand what their annual invoice will look like going forward. These are support resources available for users as well:

  1. BYU Domains to Reclaim Hosting: Everything you need to know
  2. BYU Domains to Reclaim Hosting: Logging In/Resetting your Password
  3. BYU Domains to Reclaim Hosting: Paying your invoice

It has been really cool to watch all teams at Reclaim step up and prepare for this project during the various phases, and it gets me stoked for other team projects down the road. Asana also helped a ton by allowing me to delegate work & timelines to various teams as well as specific people. Certain tasks are dependent on other work happening, and Asana is great for tracking that, too. (read: Asana Task Dependencies)

I’m pretty proud of how we’ve been able to stick to this timeline, no matter the circumstances. Ultimately, I think this has been successful because we set realistic milestones and added flex space in between tasks for unforeseen situations to arise. Planning for the unknown and being flexible to change is a crucial part of keeping large projects afloat. While we are now over the bulk of the work (i.e. rebranding, taking over ownership) the project will still likely carry into early summer as we undergo multiple rounds of server consolidation after active account numbers are reassessed. Even still, this is a great time to press the pause button and celebrate the work done thus far.

I’ve especially enjoyed working closely with Chris in Infrastructure as he has played a key role in configuring the server(s) for this change, and his way of finding solutions for seemingly impossible tasks is always amazing to watch play out. A lot of my role in this project was saying, “Hey Chris, what happens to SSO?” knowing that something would have to change to about the way folks were logging in, but having no clue how to make it from point A to point B.

At some point I’d love to sit down with him and reflect about how everything was handled, think of things we may have done differently now knowing what we know, etc. but overall big kudos to Chris for his management of infrastructure tasks.

Now as I reach the end of my reflection, it simply would not be complete without mentioning the absolute day-maker that happened at the end of the year:

The note says:
Lauren, Thank you for making the handoff of BYU Domains so graceful. I made sure to sing Reclaim’s praise in my presentation at EduCause in October. I hope most of the active users stick with you. Best, Joe

Receiving a handwritten thank-you note from Joe was so appreciated, and a cherry on top to this project. No, BYU Domains- Thank YOU!

Visiting Nashville: Vanderbilt & Team Trip

This past week I was in Nashville, TN with some of the Reclaim Hosting crew for a little bit of in-person fun. Since we’re a fully remote team at this point, it has always been a goal of ours to get everyone together at least once a year. (Previous trips have included New York City, Galway, Bristol, and Portland.) In-person trips have been a no-go with the pandemic, but now over two years later, our team looks vastly different and a trip was overdue. As with most events these days, not everyone was able to make it which was a bummer. I still look forward to the day where everyone can attend, but it was still pretty great to be able to connect with those who were able to make it in person.

And Reclaim is nothing if not efficient, so Pilot, Jim and myself actually arrived a day early to meet with Mickey Casad, Executive Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities, and others at Vanderbilt University. I’m coming to find on-campus talks to be so invigorating, and this one was no different.

walking out the door to meet for coffee with Jim and Pilot
Center for Digital Humanities Lab
Where the Center for Digital Humanities Lab lives- gorgeous!
walking on Vanderbilt’s beautiful campus

Jim and I split the talk into DoOO and Reclaim Cloud overviews and you can read through Jim’s perspective here. My big takeaways from the conversation:

  1. Don’t get bogged down in the tech when communicating the potential of a technical service. It can be really easy to slip into the deeper details when the tech is the subject of conversation. By resisting the urge this past week with Vanderbilt, we were able to better define the concepts of Domains and Reclaim Cloud, highlight work being done in the community, and think more critically with the folks in the room about how to bring it to campus. What’s more, this keeps the conversation engaging for all perspectives, instead of just those with a super tech-focused background.
  2. Thinking of Reclaim Hosting products and services as tiered or layered based on experience and needs. We’ve always believed that WordPress Multisite Hosting and cPanel Hosting were not at odds; that they could live alongside each other as parallel services to meet the needs of different users. This became all the more apparent when introducing Reclaim Cloud to the folks at Vanderbilt. By acknowledging that no single service will fill the gaps for all users, but that each service will fit the needs for most users, we can then begin to narrow in on who might best be served where. For instance:
    • Layer/Tier 1: WordPress Multisite – for the users that are scratching the surface of building out webspace
    • Layer/Tier 2: Domain of One’s Own – for the users that need a bit more freedom, storage space, and app flexibility
    • Layer/Tier 3: Reclaim Cloud – for the users with more niche requirements or ideas outside of the LAMP stack
  3. Full transparency is key. To pretend like we have all the answers would be silly. Reclaim Cloud is still fairly new, and we’re still very much trying to figure out where and how it can be best used in a classroom setting. I like that we’re open about this, and it allows schools to step up to the plate and work alongside us to make sense of what Reclaim Cloud means for them.

And now mostly for my own personal record, here are the slides that we used:

After wrapping up at Vanderbilt we were later joined in Nashville by Meredith, Goutam, Chris and Tim. We ended up staying at The 121 Hotel which I highly recommend! I chose this space not only for the cozy lodging, but also because we were able to rent out common areas for the duration of our trip. We had full kitchen, dining, and lounge areas which made it super convenient to work and hangout together on Friday and throughout the weekend.

The in-person team working together on Friday

Friday was definitely a highlight of the trip for me, as it brought us together to think critically about where we are as a company, and where we hope to be in the future. The goal was to walk away from the trip with each internal team (Sales, Support, Infrastructure) feeling like they have marching orders for the next year. Here was my rough outline for the day, along with some GIFs used on my slides, lol:

Friday’s Agenda

  • Early Morning: Coffee & Icebreakers
  • Mid Morning: State of the Union Reclaim Hosting: Where are we now? A celebration of the work done over the last year
  • Late Morning: Brainstorming– Trends in Higher Ed; Where do we want to be? What’s relevant? What’s possible? On the horizon? What are people asking for? What are people struggling with?
  • Lunch & Early Afternoon: Break out groups for Support, Sales, Infrastructure to discuss possible next steps & team goals
  • Mid/Late Afternoon: Show & Tell, get a game plan together
Tim thinking through failover in Reclaim Cloud
Goutam, Pilot, and Chris

The ideas were flowing, and it’s safe to say that we all left Nashville with a solid list of goals for 2022. We have our work cut out for us, but as our team continues to grow, the rate and scale for which this work can happen is even more exciting to me. Broad themes/takeaways from Friday:

  1. Understanding that the answer to “Why Reclaim?” may look differently depending on who you’re speaking to, both internally and externally, and it’s important that our ethos remains the same throughout all conversations. Product communication strategies amongst all teams.
  2. Continued growth and training in Reclaim Cloud. Placing priority and attention on Professional Development for all
  3. Making sure all services provided by Reclaim are accurately shown on the website and documentation.
  4. Continued/more engagement with Community through Reclaim Today, Case Studies and newsletters. New roadshows & events.
  5. Roadmap & security improvements in Infrastructure; thinking beyond cPanel and improvements to DoOO

I’m very excited for what’s to come. I’m also really happy with where we are now, and with everything we’ve accomplished so far. This weekend was an important reminder for me to feel both!

Friday night we reserved a Lounge Couch at Game Terminal, which is easily the coolest Arcade + Bar I’ve ever been to. Wasn’t able to get a group photo because everyone immediately dispersed to check out all the games, but here are a few snapshots:

SO many pinball games! The full list can be found here.

On Saturday, we had no real plan besides exploring Nashville. We started out at the Nashville Parthenon before splitting up to take on the city.

We used the Old Town Trolley Tours to hop on & off at different stops around Nashville. I highly recommend if you’re not sure where to go or if you need a quick way to get around! We finished Saturday evening at the Escape Room right downtown, and by golly, we escaped!

Feeling thankful and excited to be apart of such a cool team. Until next time, Nashville!

A Semester Rush Worth Celebrating

Sometimes it can be really easy to get caught up in all of the hustle and bustle of daily to-do tasks that we forget to celebrate the work happening at light speed all around us. Celebrating milestones can be easier, because there’s usually a momentous occasion like a work anniversary or conference event that makes us all stop for a moment and say, “Wow, look at that!” But what about the smaller, yet hardly insignificant daily tasks being completed that Reclaim Hosting comes to expect? Those are the tasks that keep the train moving. This blog post is to recognize the day to day work happening all around:

In the last two months, our support team has resolved ~1600 support tickets with a combined 98.8% satisfaction rating. All support documentation was moved out of the Community Forums and into support.reclaimhosting.com. There’s been an overall increase in Professional Development with folks completing cPanel certifications and starting in on a month-long Docker course. We also have an active job listing open for another support team member.

In Infrastructure, there’s been ~230 odd completed asana tasks coming from escalated internal requests, sever monitoring notifications, roadmap projects, and general system improvements. Our servers have had 99.87% uptime over the last 90 days, and we’ve just pushed out two new shared hosting servers (Gyruss and Robotron) to Reclaim Cloud. Finally, we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming Goutam Vijay Narang to the team as Junior Web Developer. Goutam is already jumping into the ring and I’m so excited to see how he steps into his new role.

The Sales/Account Management team is continuing to work with newer and prospective schools as well as supporting our existing community. In the last couple of months, we’ve been able to hello to Ohio State University Libraries, Miami University of Ohio, Utah Valley University, NYU City Tech, and University of Texas at Austin, to name a few. :) We’re making great progress with revamping our DoOO admin documentation, and are super excited to bring that in house with the rest of our documentation at support.reclaimhosting.com. With the continued growth at Reclaim Hosting, bringing on Pilot Irwin as a Hosting Account Manager was a no brainer. Pilot was previously an administrator for one of our DoOO schools, Carleton College, and the perspective that they bring to Reclaim has already been so valuable.

As a way to say thanks for all the hard work after the new semester rush, we’re sending out build-your-own snack boxes to all employees. If you’ve never used SnackMagic, I highly recommend. These boxes were sent out to everyone during the height of covid quarantining, and here’s a photo of my last box:

Fun, right? I’m also excited to give high fives to some of the Reclaim team when we meet for a group trip in Nashville this November. But until then, here’s a virtual high five!

February Team Learning: Domains & File Structures

The Reclaim Hosting team has started approaching professional development with a little more intention and as a group. We’ve decided to make each month as its own unit, and February is the month of Domains and File Structures. Obviously there’s a lot of ways to take this topic, so Meredith broke it down for us into three separate sections. The first third of the month was for Domains (i.e. Add-on, Sub, Alias, and general management in cPanel). The second third of the month was centered around File Structures, so think types of directories, understanding .htaccess and error logging, etc. For the final third of the month, we devoted our time to file structures for specific applications to make sure we were familiar with the the standard Scalar files that are installed vs. the standard Drupal files that are installed vs. WordPress vs. Omeka, etc.

Over the course of the month, all Reclaim staff were expected to read about these concepts, write about what they’re learning, apply their knowledge in their work, and update/create support documentation on the subject.

For me, this month led to the following blog posts on these topics:
How to redirect a top-level domain without impacting subfolders; self-taught moment based off of a support ticket I received
What to consider when organizing faculty sites and coursework in cPanel; a conversation that I have with virtually every new DoOO admin during onboarding, and something I’ve been meaning to document for a while
Creating different versions of cPanel for different user groups in WHM; a video tutorial that was desperately needed in our DoOO documentation

Yesterday we met to discuss our findings over the course of the past month and also prepare for March’s topic. Not only did I find this meeting to be helpful for the above listed reasons, but also it was nice to connect for a bit of team bonding. The larger Reclaim Hosting gets, the harder it becomes for us to all be in the same (virtual) room together.

Taking a moment to learn about symlinks from Tim. (Which then led me to realize that I’ve actually worked with symlinks before on my Drupal Multisite post!

Over the month of March we’ll be focusing solely on WordPress. Which should come as no surprise, as over 30% of web is run by WordPress, and as Jim noted during the meeting, about 85-90% of our client base. The itinerary for this month is still evolving, but is meant to be more exploratory and speculative. With a little more freedom on where/how to learn this month, I hope to be blogging even more about where I’m taking it.

One of the immediate areas that comes to mind would be the main Domain of One’s Own homepage design (stateu.org) that we hand out to new DoOO schools as the starting point for end users to log in with SSO and sign up for an account. This site is built on (you guessed it) WordPress, and is currently used as a wrapper for which we have embedded cPanel. There’s no doubt that I love this model for Domain of One’s Own, but I’m constantly wanting to find ways to improve it. Just recently, I sent out a survey to all DoOO admins about this very topic and the responses I received were fascinating. I’ll use a future blog post to go into this further, but there’s plenty of work to be done here, and its already been super cool to watch Jim, Tim and Chris run with it.

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