This time 5 years ago we were closing down ELS Blogs, UMW’s first multi-user WordPress experiment (well actually the second if you count Lyceum), to make way for the campus-wide blogging platform that would be known as UMW Blogs. Five years ago at UMW’s DTLT were heady times, there was still a lot of promise and possibility around the ideas of open publishing through open source applications—much of which has dissipated lately. The ability to deliver an open source publishing platform for an entire campus in-house with no coding experience and even less time is a little heralded marvel of the open web.
ELS Blogs had a bunch of amazing blogs on it, with the majority of them being students of Gardner Campbell, whose vision was the reason behind the platform. In fact, part of the push to get ELS Blogs back online came after I recieved an email from one of his students asking about her blog:
I graduated from UMW in 2008. I had a blog through this site for a film class back in 2007 and for years have not been able to login to it but I have been able to view it. Recently I was searching for it, to possibly have one of my posts published, and I can’t seem to find it anywhere….
The name of my article was Fast, Cheap and in Control?
Please let me know if there is anyway to recover this! I really hope to get the piece published. Thank you very much!
What was lost is now found! This isn’t the first email I’ve gotten like this, in fact I get many like it, but usually it is to export their work. This was a rare occasion in that the post was, indeed, offline. The issue was that ELS Blogs was offline for a year and a half (since December 2010) because of deeply annoying Bluehost issues—they started limiting the number and size of database tables threatening to suspend your account if you went over. (As an aside, I am very glad to note DTLT will very shortly be free of supporting any and all Bluehost accounts for departments.) We pride ourselves with archiving everything, and even back in 2007 we pushed students to take ownership of their work—but it’s only now that we can transform that ethos until a full blown pilot project in the form of A Domain of One’s Own.
Fact is, the Domain of One’s Own project has allowed us to archive so much of the work we’ve done in DTLT since 2004-2005. We’re moving all of the domains and webhosting accounts we had strewn all over campus to our own MediaTemple server and reclaiming and cleaning up a ton of work—and saving some money as well. All the while we’re archiving old, one-off WordPress blogs to UMW Blogs and mapping the domains where appropriate (but more on this process in another post). In many ways A Domain of One’s Own is born out of an extremely fertile seven year period of experimentation that has gradually become more centralized and scalable. The Domain of One’s Own pilot helps us manage that reality while at the same time opening up an entirely new period of experimentation at UMW. I feel like UMW is moving from one moment of experimentation to another, and it is doing it cleanly with an archive to show for it.
Finally, let me add that none of this could have been possible without Tim Owens’ undying dedication and genius to making the conception that was A Domain of One’s Own into a hard and fast reality. He has been a godsend for DTLT specifically, and UMW more generally. Tim is nothing short of amazing, I challenge you to show me one better!
This is, for me at least, maybe the coolest thing to see come back online as a part of the Domain of Ones Own pilot so far. To think that we can bring back content from 2007 and make it live on the web again is amazing, and really not as difficult as we would have thought. It’s exciting work to be a part of and I can’t wait to see what new and great things students do with the server now that they’ll not only have their own publishing platform, but their own platform and domain to do anything they can dream up!
I bow to your greatness! Archiving this stuff has been amazing for me as well. Nothing is more depressing than web kipple, and we are doing our best to make what has happened here at UMW digitally and archive for the future. I love that idea, and we will only get better at it as we go.
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