Back in the USSA

I’m sitting in Frankfurt’s airport after a pretty intense two-week trip back to the good ole USA. My post title references the fact that as I was entering the country around Halloween the Mueller investigation into Russian collusion charges was heating up with the promise of indictments. The current U.S. political drama is insane no matter how you slice it, but oddly a bit less painful (at least for me) when actually in the country rather than watching it from abroad. Who knows, I try and turn the volume down on that bullshit as much as possible, which reminds me I need to finally extricate myself from Twitter and the other rat nests of social media I’m half-heartedly holding on to. All I need is my blog and this thermos!

Anyway, that was not what I wanted to write about, although it will come up again later on in this post. But let me start at the beginning. I was heading to the States for three main reasons: a Workshop of One’s Own, the Reclaim Annual Retreat, and a two-day training session at Colgate University. It was a full agenda to begin with, but it also provided me an opportunity to catch up with friends and family in NYC and Long Island, which is always a treat. 

First up is the Workshop of One’s Own, which was our first real focused workshop for Domain of One’s Own administrators. We had 6 admins from various institutions to the Reclaim Headquarters in Fredericksburg for two intense days of training around administering Domain of One’s Own. I would go on in detail, but you won’t have to listen to me drone on about it because Lauren Brumfield already blogged the hell out of it! She provides a detailed look at what we covered as well as linking to the documentation we created in preparation for the event. The documentation alone was worth pushing ourselves to run the workshop; we now have a rich trove of resources for Domain of One’s Own admins. But for me the real gold was having the Reclaim team all together taking folks through Domains.

I was blown away with the preparation and execution of the various sessions, and in particular Lauren and Meredith’s adept facilitation of their sessions on everything from DNS to .htaccess to migrations —not easy topics to discuss for an hour. I’ve already talked about building capacity at Reclaim, but it occurred to me while watching them go is that we are also building expertise—and that is awesome. But not only amongst the Reclaim Hosting team, but also in the folks at the various schools running Domains. The work we are doing is not just about cPanel or WHMCS, it is about our platform which is the web. So this workshop is a deep dive into understanding how servers work, and by extension the very infrastructure of the web. I think it went off quite well, and after our first run I have no doubt we can do even better next time.

After the workshop the Reclaim Hosting team headed to New York City for the weekend to hang out. We did something similar for the cPanel conference in Portland, Oregon last October, and we found spending a few days together just hanging out was tremendously useful and productive. It proved to be the case yet again. We had a general check-in on where everyone’s at, as well as shared dreams of what we want to see next year. All the while we ate good food, saw inspiring museum exhibits, played 80s arcade games, took in a broadway show, and rode the Staten Island Ferry. Not bad at all, NYC never disappoints. Meredith wrote up the trip on her blog (look mom, they’re blogging!) and it’s cool to get her take on it given she’s only been full-time for two months—although it feels like more given how quickly she has become indispensable.

We didn’t come into the weekend with any expectations that we would get something tangible out of it, but we did. In fact, we have a full blown plan for the next six months at least (more on what we’re doing in future posts), and I feel deeply inspired creatively going into 2018 as a result. So it was a total boon for me. The idea was for us just to enjoy ourselves and have fun with hopes that would lead to good things, and I truly believe it does. I think that was part of the success of UMW’s DTLT during the 10 years I was lucky enough to work there, and I think Tim and I are intentionally trying to cultivate some of the looseness and fun that framed those years that allowed us to explore wildly, while at the same time remaining committed to a culture of support and presence that made the work sustainable. Trying to figure out that balance and what makes a team successful is both difficult and interesting, and while I don’t pretend to have any answers, I feel Reclaim Hosting is starting to click in some very important ways when it comes to the work.

After New York City, Tim and Meredith returned to Fredericksburg, while Lauren and I went to Colgate University for a two day workshop to get them up and running on their Domains pilot. This is the second time Lauren has joined me on a trip to a school, last October we went to Muhlenberg College. The previous event was focused around a talk and various workshops, which is often the case when I visit campuses (the Muhlenberg students were a blast on Twitter.) But this trip was a bit different because Lauren and I were co-facilitating the two-day workshop at Colgate to train instructional designers and system administrators on how Domain of One’s Own works. This piggy-backed nicely on the work we did for Workshop of One’s Own the previous week. Additionally, we were very intentional about treating this as preparation and experience so that she can start visiting schools solo in the future. We’ve been making great strides in building capacity and expertise at Reclaim this year, and this is but another example. It also helped that Jeff Nugent put together a great cast of characters for us to work with during our time there. It is nice to see Jeff land so well at Colgate continuing the fine work he did at VCU.

I’m definitely gonna go into greater detail about this workshop in another post because it deserves it, but let me just say that Lauren and I were able to balance a cohesive structure and spontaneous play that kinda mirrors the emerging Reclaim ethos I was trying to explain above. We had the workshop planned out quite well and day 1 ran like a tight ship. But during day two we were able to read the group a bit better and actually improvise on our plan. We responded to their interests and were able explore some of them in real-time together. They were very enthusiastic about SPLOTs, so Lauren and I improvised for an hour and a half having them build their own SPLOTs as part of the morning and afternoon sessions. The coolest part of that was both Lauren and I were new to the tools we were demonstrating (SPLOTpoint and Calling Card), so it was an experimental modeling of something we didn’t know, and the sense of shared exploration and purpose was exhilarating—a highpoint in workshopping for me. What’s more, it only reinforces the fact that SPLOTS and Reclaim are a match made in heaven, but more on that when I write that post. 

After an exhausting, but very fulfilling, two days in Colgate, Lauren and I parted in Syracuse and returned to NYC to round out my trip with friends and family. One of the great fortunate coincidences of this trip was that the CUNY mafia was running one of their famous CUNY Pie pizza tours of NYC that Friday night, so I tagged along.

It was as awesome as it sounded, and a special treat was seeing and talking with Boone Gorges. He is an elusive one on the world wide web, but just a short time with him reminds me how both inspiring and hysterically funny he is—I do miss his presence. We talked about his and Darcy Norman’s initial reclaiming efforts in 2012 and 2013 that gave Reclaim Hosting its name, and also about his continued diet of a social media free internet. I have to say his arguments are pretty compelling, and he looks and sounds no worse for the wear of being off the internet map. I deeply love the CUNY folks, I can trace pretty much my whole career back to a handful of people at the Graduate Center, many of whom were at that table eating pizza. For me, returning to NYC is always an exercise in resisting the urge to daydream about trying to move back. It’s a strong drug.


Fly like an eagle, boys!

A post shared by Jim Groom (@jim.groom) on

After that, I hung out with my family in Long Island, enjoying high school football games, great diner food, and catching up with my extended family whom are awesome.


Some Sunday fun with family.

A post shared by Jim Groom (@jim.groom) on

And as a cherry on top of an already amazing trip, I was able to grab breakfast at Mike’s Diner in Clinton Hill before heading to JFK with Twitter rockstar Sava, who will soon be leaving the NYC bubble. We had a lot to talk about in that regard, and it was nice to catch up before she begins anew.

And with that, I’m here in Germany waiting to fly to Verona and then train to Trento and dig in for the next couple of months to hang with my special lady friend, enjoy my wonderful children, and return to my hiking routine. Back home, oddly enough.

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