All the Right Movies

Last week was a whirlwind between a major migration, PressED Conference, and a packed-full Easter weekend. There was no real respite yesterday given we had a shared hosting server down most of the day, so attention was split to say the least. But given today has been the first chance I’ve had to take a real breath since getting back from the US almost two weeks ago, I figured a quick update on Reclaim Video was in order. We are working through the 1983 movies wishlist, and we’re off to a good start with All the Right Moves, Bad Boys, and The Osterman Weekend on VHS

Vigilante on Beta….

…and Tender Mercies on laserdisc thanks to the ever generous Pat Lockley.

What’s more, we also got the shelves in for the $14 dollar showcase rack we found at Goodwill two weeks ago, so this can be where we show-off all our 1983 movies as they come in—and I just made sure more ARE coming in 🙂

Update: Look what just came in this morning, that’s Peckinpah on VHS and LD -so good!

Posted in Movie Lists, movies, Reclaim Video, ReclaimVideo | Tagged , | 2 Comments

WordPress, Movements, and the PressED Twitter Conference

I share Lorna’s sentiment this morning, PressEd Twitter Conference was an absolute blast, and by all accounts a refreshing and welcome change to how we do both conferences and Twitter. I won’t lie, I was wondering if and how Pat Lockley and Natalie Lafferty would pull the whole thing off,  but the morning after I’m blown away by how right they were and how good it was. It was a 12 hour tour de force of showcasing the use of WordPress in higher ed, and it worked. I was able to get 15 minute blasts of ideas, integrations, and possibilities from folks I’ve know and respected for years as well as from folks I just learned about yesterday. I will go back through some of the sessions and try and blog about a few of them, but for now let me just get my closing a.k.a “Graveyard Shift,” session up on the blog for safe keeping 🙂

A bit about my thinking before that though. I did the talk all day while following the tweet stream. I wanted to prepare something well in advance, but I kept on coming up against two issues: 1) I’ve never done a talk like this, and 2) I wanted to avoid getting too serious or caught in the weeds given this was going to be on Twitter. The last point is relevant because I personally hate long, thoughtful threads on Twitter. They both bore and annoy me. What’s more, Twitter has gone from 0-600000000000 in the more than ten years I have used it, early on it was accused of being the most useless and solipsistic of online activities and now folks consider it a professional and political necessity. The latter two annoy me much more than the former, I liked Twitter much more when it felt communal, irreverent, and quotidian. After the last several years of constantly being barraged with talk of “fake news,” long think-piece inspired threads, and some serious self-righteousness, I’ve lost my interest. I can’t quit it, but I feed the habit less and less.

So, as I was thinking about how to keep my 20 or so tweets true to my favorite Twitter,  I knew they would have to be silly, personal, irreverent and full of GIFs. As for content, if I made one simple point, that was more than enough—this is Twitter after all. Anything longer or more in-depth would be fodder for the blog, which may not fare much better 🙂 So, I started with a few jokes, talked about WordPress as a movement, attacked the VLE/LMS—with a dig at the NGDLE, and finished up with my simple point: given the current shitstorm around privacy and data, WordPress might be one easy way to reclaim a bit of both teaching and e-learning spaces, but also your personal presence online—and maybe make the web a bit greener. That’s it.

The bit about privacy and data was based on this post, but I wanted to remain relatively light and just have some fun—not sure it worked, but I was totally fired up by the whole day and the process of creating the 20 tweets was LOL-fest. As I mentioned earlier, I worked on the presentation throughout the conference (I set aside most of the day), and I added the text of my tweets and the accompanying GIFs or images to a Google Doc. I then went through and worked on the language and jokes, and then once I had everything done by about 5 PM my time, I scheduled them all in Tweetdeck to be a minute apart from 11:05 Pm to 11:25 PM Italian time. I have to admit it was the cleanest presentation I ever gave. Text was proof-read, “slides” finished and programmed, and no worries of me going over time. In that regard, the execution of this talk was totally novel and very cool. I did want to do a poll about WordPress and movies, but given you cannot schedule polls in Tweetdeck I abandoned the idea given I did not want to mess things up. All in all, it was the most fun I have had on Twitter since the hey day of ds106, and it reminded me how good that platform can be.

One last thing about the conference, it brought me back to 2007 or 2008 when this blog was almost all WordPress all the time, a moment wherein we felt that we really could break through with WordPress in education. And, one could argue, we did. WordPress is pretty ubiquitous around higher ed, but rather than it being a force for change—it often feels more like “time to make the web donuts.” The conversation around empowering folks to build their own sites and reclaim their domain is often met with the reactionary “It’s too hard,” or treated like just another enterprise technology. For me, that has never been what WordPress was, it was always the power to understand the web and build something for and on it. 

Ok, but enough of that, now for the twenty tweets from yesterday’s PressEd talk, enjoy?

Posted in presentations, twitter, WordPress | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Migrating WPMS blogs into cPanel Accounts

Early this week we had a pretty big migration for a school we work with to move both old school faculty web spaces as well as breaking out individual sites from a WordPress Multsite (WPMS) blog into their own cPanel account. The first bit of this, moving files from the old school DIY sites was pretty straightforward. Tim scripted a sync between the two servers using rsync that moved the files of two hundred accounts cleanly between the two servers. 

The second part of the migration, however, was a bit more labor intense. For this piece we needed to move individual WordPress blogs from a WPMS setup into their own cPanel account. Not nothing. So, we tried the plugin Duplicator Pro (with the WPMS addon) but that was not making things any easier at all in the WPMS context. We had to abandon that avenue, and look at what it would look like to do this manually for 100 sites. Tim and I did one together, and wee got the pieces down: 

  • identify blog ID and user (or users) ID for individual site to be moved on WPMS instance
  • Use SequelPro to download that site IDs tables as well as wp_user and wp_user meta tables from WPMS database
  • Re-write site site ID in SQL file downloaded from wp_ID_ to wp_
  • On the cPanel side, we need to make sure the user had an account (something we scripted pretty easily using cPanel’s API)
  • Create a WordPress site on the account we are migrating
  • Drop all tables in PHPMyAdmin
  • Import downloaded SQL file through PHPMyAdmin in cPanel
  • Delete all users from wp_user and wp_usermeta save the one associated with that site on WPMS
  • Run commands to update URL across site
  • Run commands to change the uploads path from WPMS to one-off WP

Those steps effectively export and import database tables and user info from WPMS to the individual cPanel instance and make sure all is good in the database. The last bit was to make sure we had all files, plugins, and themes. To do this we downloaded (using rsync again0 all the WPMS files locally (this sped up the process enormously):

  • Rsync files from remote WPMS instance locally
  • rysnc uploaded files for the site we are migrating from blogs.dir/blog_ID/files/ to public_html/wp-content/uploads/ 
  • rysnc plugins and themes
  • fix permissions across entire account once this is all done

As you can see, this is a laundry list and it took some serious time. Doing this Tuesday morning I was averaging about two sites an hour. The method was sound, and things were moving cleanly, but timewise it was insane. Once Tim woke up and jumped in, he streamlined the process immensely by rsyncing WPMS instance locally and coming up with the commands that ensure the site and user IDs in the database are fixed and files synced seamlessly. The time to move a site went from 30 minutes to anywhere between 5-10, which allowed us to migrate the 100 sites in question on schedule. It is a thing of beauty to witness Tim streamline a process like this and make things run like a Swiss watch. 

So, the rest of this post will be specific documentation for this process because I will be using the same method Tim perfected for this migration to finally break this blog free from its tyrannical WPMS beginnings into an individual WP site, only to re-subjugate it soon after 🙂

The information you need to get started is the blog_id and user_id for the site you will be migrating from the WPMS setup into a stand-alone site on cPanel. In the the WPMS you can go to the Network Admin and search in Sites and then Users to find the IDs in question. Just hover over the Edit button to see the ID in the browser as illustrated below.

Keep in mind often the site ID and the user ID are different, but they can also be the same. This screwed me up early on, so just a heads up.

Once that is done you are going to download the appropriate tables from the WPMS instance, along with the wp_user and wp_usermeta tables. I used Sequel Pro for this, and it is quite the tool for this stuff (although you can do it through PHPMyAdmin in cPanel):

The exporting dialog box is nice cause it shows you what tables are being downloaded.After this, you will have a downloaded SQL that you need to run one find and replace command on before you import it to your WordPress shell on cPanel. Blog tables in WPMS are uniquely identified in the database with an ID, such as wp_223_, but given this will be a stand alone site now you need to change all instances of wp_223_ to wp_. 

After that, you dump all the database files of the WordPress instance you installed on your cPanel account, and then import this SQL files via PHPMyAdmin:

Now, if you remember, we grabbed the entire wp_user and wp_usermeta tables from the WPMS, which could be hundreds (or even thousands) of users. But in this instance we only need one, and Tim shared  a slick SQL command that you can run to delete all users but the one you want. The user ID in this instance was 221, so the following code deletes all user info save that for ID 221:

Noice the user ID is different from the site ID:

Now, all the data is moved over and the user can login with the original username and password. The only things left are to transfer files, clean up URLs in database, change uploads path, and fix permissions. This is where Tim’s playing with WordPress command line voodoo and file sync shaved 15-20 minutes off the migration process.

So, here are the codes for cleaning up the database and file path for this particular site:

OK, so using WordPress’s command line feature, the above 3 commands re-write all instances of the old URL to The second replaces the WPMS file path (blogs.dir/269/files) with uploads, which is the default for a stand alone WP. Finally, the third command replaces any existing instances of the masked path for files in the WPMS ( with the new path ( That’s it for cleaning up URLs. 

Now we have to sync uploaded files, plugins, and themes. This was another huge time saver because rsync is so much faster and cleaner than FTP. So, what we had to do here is download all the WPMS files locally. This is the command I used for that, which was grabbing all files from the wpmu folder:

After that, we can sync the appropriate files directly using the following commands:

Notice that the first command is specific to the site ID I’m working with, namely 223. I had to change this for each new site I migrated. The other two commands are syncing all the themes and plugins. These transfers literally take seconds, which changes everything in terms of waiting. 

After that, you need to run the script for the cpanel account, and you are done. I won’t say easy, necessarily, but see how all the pieces work make me think this could be scripted more seamlessly if we were to have schools that wanted to migrate their WPMS instances to a Domain of One’s Own instance. Anyway, this one will be a reference going forward, and further testament to the fact that Tim Owens is the best damn thing that ever happened to the bava!

Posted in Domain of One's Own, reclaim, WordPress, wordpress multi-user, wpmu | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Reclaiming Open with WordPress

I woke up to a few tweets about Reclaim Hosting and the #deletefacebook movement. It’s been hard for me to get excited about Facebook either way. I see it as one of the more depressing malls of the web, and I try and stay away as much as possible. And beyond their horrific practices with collecting personal data, I have been equally dismayed over the past several years by their refusal to curtail predatory catfishing when brought to their attention again and again. It seems like expecting anything else from Facebook would be tantamount to expecting that Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” was anything more than a flattering slogan to sell an image.

Skeletor likes to feel evil

And while I tend to agree deleting your account is not necessarily a solution and data collection needs to be regulated more stringently as it soon will be in Europe, a part of me can’t help but think what did we expect? Whether hacked or handed over, did we really doubt that sooner or later we would pay dearly for the “free” services we have gorged ourselves on for more than a decade? I guess that makes the current moment of outrage seem a bit disingenuous, or at least somewhat absurd. In the end, to be a good citizen of the web you have to be willing to take some ownership of your online presence, and that means taking the time and spending a bit of money (although not all that much) to build something on an open platform outside the corporate spaces that have become ubiquitous because we’ve often settled for less when it comes to the open web. WordPress is my drug of choice, and 13 years later it remains a robust open source community that powers near a third of all sites on the web. More than that, it makes me feel like I have far more options through this tool then just about anything else I do online, which in turn allows me to define my presence to a much greater degree, not to mention build course sites, research sites, web services, and more.

So, thanks to the tweets from Laura and Howard this morning, I think this is what my talk for PressEd Conference will be about on Thursday. I have been struggling a bit with that talk given many other folks far smarter than me will have much more interesting things to share when it comes to WordPress in education. So, maybe my 20 tweets or so can be about why using WordPress in education is more relevant than ever given the trappings of a free, but not open, web seem to be coming home to roost presently. And while Facebook is certainly the most deserving of targets for public outrage, chances are they’re not alone in their practices by any stretch of the imagination as Doc Searls blogged about the other day:

What will happen when the Times, the New Yorker and other pubs own up to the simple fact that they are just as guilty as Facebook of leaking its readers’ data to other parties, for—in many if not most cases—God knows what purposes besides “interest-based” advertising? 

It’s invigorating and life-affirming to witness a broad movement of folks around the USA, led by some badass high schoolers, demand sane gun laws simply to ensure their safety at school. Something currently taken for granted here in Italy. That for me seems like a first order need—thinking of sending my kids to an American primary or secondary school only to wonder if they will make it home alive because politicians are in the NRA’s pocket is unconscionable. It’s a movement that is long overdue, and there are certainly many forces that helped give it the head of steam it has presently. I want to think the same could be true for reclaiming a bit of the open web, and would like to believe that the work a whole cadre of open educators have been pushing on for the last 10-15 years would be one practical approach, this is of particular interest to me given the perils of higher ed going down the data extraction in the name of personalization that is being pushed by the folks at EDUCAUSE under the banner of the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE). If we want to look at one space where the outrage around Facebook that might hit even closer to home in the context of education, it could be what companies will be extracting what data in the name of streamlined, integrated personalization environment that the NGDLE promises. Anyway, I’ll save some of this for my Tweetstorm on Thursday 🙂

Posted in open education, open source, presentations, reclaim, reclaimopen, WordPress | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reclaim Video’s 1983 Wishlist

Reclaim Video is coming along nicely. It will be officially opening sometime in the next month or so. What that looks like exactly is not entirely clear just yet, and ww would appreciate any and all ideas. We are discussing memberships that allow for unlimited rentals of VHS, Beta, Laserdiscs, as well as the video game consoles.  We are toying with getting a telepresence robot so I can help manage the space remotely, bringing in curators to run the shop, as well as an entire web-based interface for interacting with the physical space remotely. I am being vague because this is all still amorphous. But one thing I’m sure of is that we do have t-shirts, stickers, guaranteed memberships, and a custom GIF awaiting anyone willing to send us 4 of the following 95 titles from 1983. If you are game, either use the comments to commit to any 4, or send along the videos you want to contribute to The films can be in any of the formats noted—namely VHS, Betamax (Beta) or Laserdisc (LD)—and the the closer to 1983 the version, the better!

This is the wishlist we will working through at Reclaim over the next month or so as we start building out the collection in earnest. We’ll come out with other lists for other years as things move along, but the idea of focusing on a particular year will help us be a bit more intentional. What’s more, it offers an interesting perspective on the cultural moment—all those Robert Forster vigilante films 🙂  I’ll blog more about 1983 as we start procuring some of these. You might also me asking, why 1983? Isn’t that kind of a random year given VHS invasion can be traced back to the late 70s. Well, it is random, and it is more closely aligned with the video store I started visiting when I was 12 years-old in 1983 (East Coast Video in Oceanside, Long Island). They still rented VCRs, the tape covers were a deep blue, and it was magical to me. That’s the UR-video rental store that fuels much of what Reclaim Video is for me. But many of you have your own East Coast Video of the mind, along with your own favorites—so feel free to ignore this list, send something else all together, and/or, better yet, start your own damn video store 🙂

Update 4/3/2018: I will be crossing out any titles/formats we receive, and this is the first batch so far 🙂

All the Right Moves on VHS

Tender Mercies on LD

Vigilante on Beta

Bad Boys and Osterman Weekend on VHS

Posted in Movie Lists, movies, Reclaim Video | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

The Life of a Reclaimer is Always Intense

I am sitting at a small round table in Frankfurt Airport staring out at the tarmac which, all things being equal, I’ll soon be taxied across on my way back home to Trento. While I’m still somewhat cognizant-given I’m working between timezones on a sleepless redeye-I’ll try and record how intense the last ten days were—in fact the life of a Reclaimer is always intense! [Let’s get a drink, kid!] This trip was a whirlwind with two primary objectives: 1) help run a workshop for folks at several schools running Domain of One’s Own, and 2) get Reclaim Video as close to finished as possible. I’m thrilled (and somewhat amazed) that I can now happily say “Mission Accomplished!” —and then some. I’m reeling a bit from the intensity, but at the same time working like that makes me feel pretty alive—I can very easily feed off it, but a crash is never far behind 🙂

The Workshop of One’s Own was Thursday and Friday of last week, and I got in late Tuesday. In fact, I even picked up a stray dog at National Airport who proved a trusty companion for the next few days 🙂 We invited Alan to Fredericksburg so he could speak to the Workshop attendees about SPLOTs, and that he did with some hardcore 70s TV commercial references! The Reclaim Hosting crew came together and re-thought the first workshop a bit: we broke it up into an intense dive into how WHM, WHMCS, and WordPress are integrated to create what we know as Domain of One’s Own. Day two we had a discussion about how various folks are approaching the project on their campus, and then jumped into tools like Omeka, Scalar, Grav, and then a longer session on SPLOTs. I think the tool overviews were not as helpful as we thought they would be, so that might be something we abandon next time. I think the workshop was effective, but we still need to have more hands-on workshopping time. So if we run another in the Fall, that will definitely be a goal!

One of the cool things Tim and Lauren put together that worked really well was an Escape Room. It was my first time doing one, and it was fun. I think it broke up the intensity of both days to some degree, and it had a great script and was really thoughtful. The quick version: a student is sucked into their computer and it is going to update in an hour and effectively overwrite the student’s existence. So, you need to find the passcode for his computer to avoid this Tron-inspired digital nightmare. Good stuff.

The workshop wiped me out, but I was still able to get a couple of movies in at the Library of Congress, Packard Campus with Alan and Mo Pelzel, specifically My Left Foot and the original Manchurian Candidate.

Will try not to be late for tomorrow’s feature

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I have to say I was less impressed with Manchurian Candidate my second time around, but the brief introduction by one of the curators was a pretty amazing homage to [[Janet Leigh]], which made me far more interested in her part of the film. And while this film could not be more timely (geo-political problems with Russia, China, and North Korea around psychological warfare) the whole thing kinda felt a bit flat. That said, Janet Leigh on the train was not, and ole Blue Eyes was pretty awesome too—but I don’t know, how current it felt (or we may want it too feel) was a drawback for me rather than selling point.

Last night’s feature at the LOC Packard Campus

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Whereas My Left Foot blew me away, I think [[Daniel Day Lewis]] is the very best in the business, and he did not disappoint. The pathos of that story, the sense of people in their lives versus psychological or technical defining and controlling them was a real welcome relief.

Reclaim Video Carpet

Reclaim Video Carpet

Anyway, after some downtime Sunday morning, I started turning my mind to a bear that had been bothering me since I arrived: laying the groovy new carpet for Fredericksburg’s latest video store. Hmmmm, how to tell this one? Well, I guess tell it straight with a slant. When I was in grad school and living in NYC, which is almost 20 years ago now, I spent a fair amount of my spare time working with my brother laying floors. I learned how to install wood floors, lay tile, and even some carpet. I was better at tile and wood (because those were my brothers specialties), and while I had laid carpet with others—I neither liked it not was as comfortable with it. What’s more, if you have a funky pattern, matching up the seam can be a pain in the ass (more on this soon). So, Sunday I spent time revisiting the carpet laying process and measuring stuff out as well as calling my brother for a quick refresher course. After all of that, I felt fairly confident that we could install the carpet Monday morning, which would give us time to finish the shelves and stock the store on Tuesday. We had a tight deadline because we needed the space at least partially finished to film part of our promo video for #OER18, but that’s classified.

So, Monday morning came around and we started cutting the carpet and preparing the 12′ x 20′ piece for installation. Tim was helping me and everything was going smoothly until we folded the carpet off the wall and glued a 10′ x 20′ section with commercial grade carpet glue (leaving  2′ x 20′ piece unglued to manage the seam). That glue is powerful. After spreading, it was time to roll the carpet back and set it, but after the shift it was 2 feet off the wall. Nightmare. The next 60-90 minutes were the worst I have had in a while. We tried pulling the carpet but it was already setting so we had to go on the glue, which made a complete mess and ruined my boots and Tim’s  sneakers. What’s more, the area was too big and the glue too tacky for us to even adjust the piece. We thought we were kissing $1000 worth of carpet (our only real expense for Reclaim Video besides the awesome storefront sign) goodbye. At one point we were discussing how we salvage the carpet (which was starting to get glue on it), and I was regretting ever deciding to lay the carpet myself. Did I already mention it was a nightmare? After an hour of trudging through glue in our shoes, then our socks, and then bare feet, we finally were able to fold the carpet like a paper airplane and adjust it just right against the back wall. It fell in pretty cleanly, and we were saved! REDEMPTION!!!

Crisis avoided, and we could even get the glue off the carpet before it dried. After what turned into a 3 hour ordeal we finished putting it in and were way too shellshocked to even try and tackle cutting the second piece and thinking through the seam. We just thanked our lucky stars for actually saving the carpet and called it a day. The next day we were back at it, and this went smoother, although we miscalculated the seam by an inch or so, which means the pattern is not perfect, but there is no gap and given the carpet is pretty busy you have to be looking for our mistake. My brother would know for sure. But after our initial call for the refresher, I did not tell my brother about any of this, and I am pretty sure he doesn’t read this blog. A bit of saving face. The final product was actually better then I would have ever have dreamed while I was stepping through commercial grade glue trying to keep from completely freaking out:

The Reclaim Video carpet is finally laid, and I am gonna pretend it went smoothly.

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A savvy carpet pattern eye could find the seam, but for all intents and purposes the carpet is perfect for the space, and it really finished it off. Once the carpet was done on Tuesday, we worked on the baseboard, shelves, as well as moving and stocking the counters Tuesday night and all-day Wednesday during a snow storm:

Reclaim Video: “If you will it, it is no dream”

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It was amazing how quickly it transformed into everything we had envisioned and more:

The showcase looking good with some Atari 5200, Blip, Reclaim Video shirts, and more

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filling up the shelves.

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And by Thursday morning we were stocking the shelves with VHS and Betamax tapes, not to mention laserdiscs:

everything we hoped and dreamed 💙💚❤️

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It was as done as it could be based on our current inventory, and I could not be more thrilled with how it came together! It made the perfect backdrop for our video work the rest of the day. The only sad part for me is soon after it was finished and we were done filming it was time for me to head back to Italy. It all went so fast! Although I did not leave before finally putting away the innumerable boxes of books that were littering the back office of Reclaim Video, so it felt good to truly get everything on my list to-do this time done.

And while parting Reclaim Video was sweet sorrow, I did snap a couple of selfies to remember it by 🙂

I love you, Reclaim Video

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Follow your dreams, kids, they can come true!

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A dream come true, indeed! It was an intense 10 days, but the most rewarding kind of work: helping people manage their domains and creating something fun alongside it!

Posted in Reclaim Video, Workshop of One's Own | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Getting to Know Grav

Tomorrow is Reclaim Hosting’s second Workshop fo One’s Own, and it’s high time I collect some thoughts for my session about Grav for the attendees.

So, what is Grav? It’s a content management system (CMS) or, said another way, it’s an application to make websites. But differs from other CMSs like Drupal or WordPress in its underlying technology. While it’s a PHP app like those two, unlike them it does not have a database. All data is written directly to files rather than stored and retrieve from a database. This is known as a flat-file system and it can help with performance given numerous database calls can slow down sites.

Why and when would you use Grav? I’m not sure I would push a faculty member or student towards Grav if they weren’t somewhat technically-inclined. It’s not that Grav is particularly difficult, every CMS has a learning curve, but rather it gets really interesting when you can integrate it into Github using the Github Sync plugin, which sync everything on your Grav site to a Github repository for others to contribute to, clone, or fork. 

But is it educational? Thanks to the great Paul Hibbitts, absolutely. One of the cool things Paul has been doing is building packages with predefined themes and plugins to create a focused functionality.  We have these as part of our shared hosting servers, and they add fun options like a Resume, Photo site, Open Course Hub, etc. In many ways it is quite similar to what Brian Lamb and Alan Levine imagined with their SPLOTs.

In fact, the  package are well maintained, in fact Paul just updated a few Installatron packages at Reclaim Hosting, and you can try it out on our demo server at

To get more familiar with Grav, I actually installed and played around with the Open Course Hub package to re-make the Workshop website.

The original is a course/blog theme designed by Paul that I used his package to install on Reclaim and then synced with Github (which the wizard makes quite simple if you have an account). I deleted much of the pages in the original and keep the sidebar and page structure—notice the “Edit This Page” link that leads you to Github.

One of the issue I ran into as I was getting acquainted with Grav through the Open Course Hub package is that changing the menu structure or the blog post structure took me a bit to figure out. This is always the case with learning new systems, but when installing these packages you may feel somewhat tied to the pre-existing structure.

I’ll provide a quick anatomy of the homepage in my Grav to explain what I mean. Here is a look at the Grav pages management area:

Page Management Area of Grav

The pages under home are part of the blog. Keep in mind Grav is not necessarily a blogging engine, so the blog functionality is a bit of an addon that you need to build which depends in part on your theme. Paul setup the Open Course Hub that it would have the blog feature enabled by default. The blog posts are known as “items” and you can see the content for the “Day 1 (March 15th)” post below:

Text Editor for Blog Item in Grav

Like Ghost, Grav is built to write using Markdown and you can see in the Content tab that it has a basic visual editor similar to WordPress. The other tabs are where you would control various features of the item.

In the Options tab you can update the date of the post, the status (published, draft, etc), add categories, tags, etc. 

In Advanced you can control parent page, template, ordering, etc.

In Blog Item you can add featured image, link, summary excerpt, etc.

In retrospect it is simple enough, but after being so trained to think through the WordPress dashboard it’s amazing how much of something as simple as creating a post you take for granted.

So, I’ll be saying as much and more this Friday when I show off  Grav to a group of folks to give them a better sense of some of the options afforded through open source applications like Grav and their dedicated community members like Paul that make these applications that much better.

Also, please leave additional talking points, recommendations for examples, and even critiques of what I wrote above in order to help me fine-tune this bit of Workshop of One’s Own.

Posted in Workshop of One's Own | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Monogamous Book Club, Episode 3: The Iron Heel

A couple of weeks ago Paul Bond reached out asking if I wanted to discuss [[Jack London]]’s 1908 dystopian novel The Iron Heel. I had recently read White Fang with my kids, so I was definitely game. I had heard the novel described as a kind of pedantic socialist manifesto thinly masked as a romance, and it pretty much lives up to that description. Paul already did a good job of discussing the limits of the novel, so I’ll pull a London from chapters 3 and 7 of The Iron Heel and basically lift and copy what he wrote here 🙂

Which brings up the question: Is it a good book? It feels like an odd question to ask, since we both invested time in reading it, thinking about it, and discussing it. It makes for interesting discussion, as a product of its time, as a vision (sometimes eerily accurate) of the near future, and for how it is relevant to today’s world. It is also tedious, sometimes pedantic, often unreflective, and lacking in nuance or subtlety. I wondered if London might be making a comment on the vacuousness of the newly-minted True Believer, but apparently he was one himself. As Jim pointed out, the most compelling parts of the story, the Red Virgin and the terrorist organizations, are only mentioned in passing, when they could be worth a novel in themselves.

In fact, the novel’s most interesting character is Anna Roylston, or “The Red Virgin,” but she is only mentioned in passing a few times. I would have loved an entire novel about her life. She is basically an assassin for the Socialists that targets the oligarchs and their henchmen, here is a bit about her:

Despite continual and almost inconceivable hazards, Anna Roylston lived to the royal age of ninety-one. As the Pococks defied the executioners of the Fighting Groups, so she defied the executioners of the Iron Heel. She bore a charmed life and prospered amid dangers and alarms. She herself was an executioner for the Fighting Groups, and, known as the Red Virgin, she became one of the inspired figures of the Revolution. When she was an old woman of sixty-nine she shot “Bloody” Halcliffe down in the midst of his armed escort and got away unscathed. In the end she died peaceably of old age in a secret refuge of the revolutionists in the Ozark mountains.

And she is mentioned about 3 or 4 other times. Rather than listening to Ernest Everhard (how about that name?!) go on and on about socialism at dinner party after dinner party, or lecture after lecture, I would much rather follow a character like Anna Roylston through the corridors of the Socialist underground. In fact, here character made me think about the character and plot-line of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. In fact, the 15-20 pages of description in Chapter XXIV when the Socialist uprising actually happens (known as The Chicago Commune) may be the best part of the book. The intense description of the abysmal horde rising from the beneath the city like the Mole people in Escape from New York was intense. Paul captured a great audio clip of that moment:

And the ways in which the people of the abyss were brutally mowed down by the mercenary army funded by the plutocracy was the moment the book lives up to its classification as dystopian. But again, it was the passing details that I found most interesting. For example, in the final chapter in the wake of the total failure of the socialist uprising in Chicago, various terrorists organizations emerge in response. The description of these groups seems like something out of The Warriors:

The annals of this short-lived era of despair make bloody reading. Revenge was the ruling motive, and the members of the terroristic organizations were careless of their own lives and hopeless about the future. The Danites, taking their name from the avenging angels of the Mormon mythology, sprang up in the mountains of the Great West and spread over the Pacific Coast from Panama to Alaska. The Valkyries were women. They were the most terrible of all. No woman was eligible for membership who had not lost near relatives at the hands of the Oligarchy. They were guilty of torturing their prisoners to death. Another famous organization of women was The Widows of War. A companion organization to the Valkyries was the Berserkers. These men placed no value whatever upon their own lives, and it was they who totally destroyed the great Mercenary city of Bellona along with its population of over a hundred thousand souls. The Bedlamites and the Helldamites were twin slave organizations, while a new religious sect that did not flourish long was called The Wrath of God. Among others, to show the whimsicality of their deadly seriousness, may be mentioned the following: The Bleeding Hearts, Sons of the Morning, the Morning Stars, The Flamingoes, The Triple Triangles, The Three Bars, The Rubonics, The Vindicators, The Comanches, and the Erebusites.

This whole bit on the terrorist organizations seems far more relevant today than anything resembling an international Socialist movement—which may be a good sign the plutocrats are winning. This text is a footnote in the novel that is delivered from 700 years in the future. And for me these messages from the future were often the most compelling parts. The novel is a framed narrative in which we are reading the manuscript of Avis Everhard which was discovered 700 years after she had written it, so basically the 26th century. The footnotes pepper the texts, and makes for a dialogue between realities that are framed inline as footnotes. It was off-putting at first, but I came to appreciate how London was experimenting with this back and forth in an attempt to denature the reader from their present reality, not to mention couching political and personal jabs as post facto realities. That said, I would rather  read a novel about the Valkeries or the Widows of War and their counterparts the Beserkers—complex human stories based on the tragedy of living beneath the Iron Heel—the book delivers very little of that in the end. 

One more thing worth noting about the text I used. Given I’m still attached to paper, I ordered my version through Amazon and I have to say I got a pretty bad edition. The cover is pictured to the right, and as you can see it’s graphics are playing on the current political atmosphere which I stupidly fell for. When I got the book there was no mention of an editor or anyone behind the edition, and what’s more I noticed immediately the spacing was kinda crazy. Worse, some of those footnotes from the future were missing. I confirmed this when I compared the final chapter to the version of the novel on Gutenberg,  my version completely left out the final footnote telling the reader the novel ends abruptly:

*This is the end of the Everhard Manuscript. It breaks off abruptly in the middle of a sentence. She must have received warning of the coming of the Mercenaries, for she had time safely to hide the Manuscript before she fled or was captured. It is to be regretted that she did not live to complete her narrative, for then, undoubtedly, would have been cleared away the mystery that has shrouded for seven centuries the execution of Ernest Everhard.

Kind of a major omission in my mind. Given the novel is in the public domain anyone can make a copy, and I admittedly bought this one for the cover, not the edition. I regret it. I would recommend against this edition given it is pretty much a hackjob to make a quick buck—and what a book to do that with! 🙂

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Reclaiming Jekyll (Two Years Later)

Two years ago Tim wrote a great post detailing how you can get Jekyll up and running in shared hosting on Reclaim Hosting.* I’m late to this party, obviously, but playing with Grav recently led me back into Github thanks to the Github Sync plugin. I had explored Jekyll back in 2014 briefly (almost 4 years ago now, really?!), but I forgot most everything. I wanted to see if my Grav repository in Github (synced with my Grav install on Reclaim) would allow me to run the Grav files through Github pages (which is powered by Jekyll). Is this all crystal clear now? Good.

Turns out I was on a fool’s errand. Grav is a flat-file CMS, but it needs PHP to dynamically those pages as a site—which I should have understood. So it will not run on Github Pages.  Grav Sync is first and foremost for forking and collaborating on specific Grav instances (which I did understand), but I was trying to understand if those files could be seamlessly archived/translated into Jekyll given it was a repository, but I see my foolish ways now. Thank you, Tim 🙂 So while you can bring up individual pages from my Grav repository on Github, like the Welcome page:

But the site functionality of my Grav instance could not be reproduced. Lesson learned. But this did peak my interest in synching my locally installed Jekyll on Reclaim Hosting with my Jekyll on Github. So, I asked Tim and he suggested the following:

I’m not sure the exact steps but it would involve setting up the repo in Github and cloning it to your hosting account and > then you could use git commands like git pull to grab the latest from git (even setup a cron every 10-15 min to do that piece).

Turns out that was the exact approach—I wish I was that good. I took the Github repo I have at (which maps to and clone it into the jekyll folder on my Reclaim Hosting account. I made sure to run jekyll build in the folder so that it would build the site files in the _site directory. After that I pointed the DNS of the subdomain to the new directory, i.e. jekyll/ and the same site at on Github is cloned and also resolving through my shared hosting account at The two things needed to sync changes made on Github is running the following commands in the jekyll/ folder on my shared hosting (making sure you are logged into command line through your virtual Ruby environment):

and then

Pull in any changes and then rebuilds the site so those changes are published to _site. None of this is new by any means, I am just playing catch up. Adam Croom went down this road two years ago in order to stick a fork in the LMS using Github, and I can say from firsthand experience that wrapping your head around Github can be intense, but that’s no excuse for an ed-tech to give up:

“An Ed-Tech spends her life getting into tense situations!”
-A Github Repo Man

*This setup requires CloudLinux, which we have installed on all our shared hosting servers. 

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Reclaim Video Progress

Since February progress on Reclaim Video has been moving at light speed. Things are really starting to come along, and the idea we’ve been throwing around for a year now is quickly becoming a reality. Here are a few of the accomplishments since mid-February:

Lauren secured some period appropriate posters for the Reclaim Video walls.

From the swag department:

Reclaim Video Sticker Template

The actual stickers

Reclaim Video T-shirts

But lest you think we’re all swag and no swarm, there has also been real progress on the storefront:

Tim has been building custom shelves

Yesterday Tim and Lauren secured the showcase and desk thanks to Craig’s List

And this morning Meredith shared this gem!

The Reclaim Video Storefront sign!

Beyond that, we are expecting the carpet today, which will be installed next week. What’s more, we’ve also been in discussions with the great Michael Branson Smith about the website. So, let it be know, Reclaim Video is happening!

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