Workshop of One’s Own, Reclaim Hosting’s first administrator-focused intensive workshop, has now come and gone. I don’t use the word “intensive” lightly here; it was a dense two days, packed with information that would make even the most qualified administrator feel exhausted. But it was amazingly rewarding nonetheless.
For this workshop, the Reclaim team really wanted to focus on creating an initial knowledge base of documentation that speaks directly to the Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) administrator. While the DoOO Community Forums can be helpful for certain categories, and while there’s a template of DoOO support docs floating around for the community, we felt that there really was not a formal source for administrators. We realize bringing Domain of One’s Own to any institution can feel like a massive undertaking in itself, so if Reclaim Hosting can help even just a little bit with the onboarding process for new administrators, then we’ll consider that a win.
This was our mindset going into the workshop. We wanted an event for folks that would land somewhere between the Reclaim team coming to a university for in-person training, and the new admin putting in countless support tickets with us as a form of learning. But since this was our first workshop, we reached out to folks personally that we thought might benefit from the training. Though the attendees came from an array of backgrounds, titles, and experiences, we were really pushing to get people that, at the bare minimum, had experienced Domain of One’s Own at their school for a couple of months. This would allow them to have some familiarity with the platform, think through their goals for the project, and gather their questions.
On Thursday morning, the first day of the workshop, we met folks at Reclaim’s office in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We introduced (or in some cases, reacquainted) ourselves over Panera bagels, and then jumped right into a platform overview at 9 am. Understanding how the platform works and being able to conceptualize how the three main pieces work together is crucial for supporting a community, so we felt like this was a strong start to the workshop. And as Meredith mentioned in her post, having only 6 attendees quickly made the environment feel intimate and comfortable.
After the first session, Tim and Jim took the folks through an in-depth look at WHMCS (client manager) and WHM (server side). The initial homepages of these tools can feel quite intimidating if you haven’t worked with them before, so this felt like the natural next step in the itinerary. In WHMCS, the two covered ‘active’ vs. ‘pending’ orders, deprovisioning accounts, email templates, account ownership, creating administrator roles, and understanding logs and general settings. In WHM, Jim and Tim discussed settings in Installatron, hosting packages, account management, cPanel feature manager, addon domains, storage quotas, and changing domain names. Whew- what a list!
From there I spoke about actually supporting of Domain of One’s Own. We’ve learned from early on that Domain of One’s Own is nothing without people that use it, so understanding how to support the community is well over half the battle. You can find my post and recording from this talk here. In summary, I covered strategies for approaching a support ticket, top 5 most common support requests and their fixes, unblocking IP addresses in WHM, .htaccess files, HTTP 500 errors, and quick database fixes.
Day 2 of the workshop was probably my favorite. We picked up right where we left off, continuing to talk through support scenarios by discussing hacked websites and how to clean them up and prevent them in the future. Tim walked folks through strategies, tools to use, and necessary steps to take. I summarized his talk in my blog post, Workshop of One’s Own: Notes on Hacked Site Session.
After that, Meredith spoke on Migrations, Transfers, and Databases. Quite the feat for someone who just joined Reclaim Hosting full time in September. She discussed migrating folks to a Domain of One’s Own platform, transferring them off DoOO after graduation, requirements for domain transfers, EPP codes, the lifecycle of domains, the importance of database migration, nameservers, and domain privacy.
Before lunch, I took over by covering all DNS-related topics, continuing the theme of supporting Domain of One’s Own. DNS can quickly feel overwhelming, so I only covered relevant content regarding the projects of those sitting in the room. We explored what DNS actually is and does, in addition to DNS records and how to edit them from WHM and cPanel. Lastly, I touched on common DNS errors and their fixes.
With Benny’s Pizza as fuel, Workshop attendees were given a ‘breakout room’-like puzzle during their lunch break. The group had to work together to solve a pretty involved support ticket with fixes that were covered over the last day and a half. They were given 3 escalations or ‘lifelines’ where they could submit a support ticket to ask the Reclaim team for help. Not surprisingly, however, the group only ended up using 1 lifeline. It was awesome to watch them work together and to hear their thought process for finding solutions along the way. Everyone had come to the table with different levels of understanding and experiences, so they were able to play on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. When all was said and done, the group of 6 solved the ticket in under an hour by editing DNS records, correcting a .htaccess file, manually turning off a faulty WordPress plugin, installing an SSL certificate, and editing database files to fix a broken WordPress dashboard. Not too shabby.
By the afternoon on day 2, everyone was feeling pretty drained but motivated for the last stretch of the workshop. I continued with a discussion about Exit Strategies for graduating students and spoke on handling migrations, deleting old accounts, and the specific instructions to give students. From there, Tim conducted the last formal session of the workshop by talking about the potential of APIs in a Domain of One’s Own environment. Switching gears from more of a formal training of ‘how-tos’ to an overview of ‘here are things that you could be doing’ approach was refreshing. He talked through WHMCS hooks, taking advantage of cPanel features without accessing the cPanel interface, additional APIs in Installatron, and different API tools.
The last hour of the workshop was left for an open discussion. We answered any outstanding questions that had arisen over the course of the last two days, and then tackled more user/project-specific requests.
All in all, it was a jam-packed, successful event. I’d love to do these workshops regularly- potentially once a semester- and am so thankful for the folks that decided to come out and help us kick it off. The Reclaim team has already agreed that future workshops should include more interactivities besides the group lunch event on day 2, as they really do help liven things up and allow the attendees to apply what they learned.
Anyway, thanks for reading! Be on the lookout for future Workshop events at workshop.reclaimhosting.
The above is a blog post published to labrumfield.com on November 13, 2017.