Mastodon Version Updates, Object Storage Security, and More

This post provides a place for me to capture some of the maintenance work I’ve been doing on and; the two Mastodon instances of note I’m currently administering. Keep in mind these two instances are running on a Debian VPS, so they’re not Docker images like our one-click Mastodon installs through Reclaim Cloud, so updates and management will be a bit different for those—and hopefully even easier.

Updating Mastodon to Latest Versions

I’ve been really pleased with how easy it’s been to update Mastodon to the latest version. In fact, it would have been seamless if I actually read the directions. The Upgrading to the latest version doc will get you in the right directory and have you pull the recent release. You then go to the notes for the release you upgrading to, for me it was version 4.1.2, and follow the update notes which will tell you if there have been any core dependency changes you need to account for:

Non-Docker only:

  • The recommended Ruby version has been bumped to 3.0.6. If you are using rbenv, you will be require to install it with RUBY_CONFIGURE_OPTS=--with-jemalloc rbenv install 3.0.6. You may need to update rbenv itself with git -C /home/mastodon/.rbenv/plugins/ruby-build pull.
  • Install dependencies: bundle install and yarn install

Both Docker and non-Docker:

  • Restart all Mastodon processes

Following these instructions ensured the upgrades worked cleanly. I did notice on both instances in the Administration panel there was a notice that “there are pending database migrations. please run them …” which led me down a Google rabbit hole that ended at this post which helped me push through the database migrations with the following command run from the /home/mastodon/live directory:

RAILS_ENV=production bundle exec rails db:migrate

After that the warning went away and was good.

Preventing Object Files from Being Listed Publicly

One of the things I realized was the way I had setup the AWS S3 bucket for the ds106 server was not secure given anyone could list all files in the bucket. This is an issue because this could give access to someone’s takeout downloads should they want to migrate elsewhere. Luckily ee did not have that scenario on the ds106 server, but I still wanted to fix this. I was not having luck until I came across this Stack Exchange post that Chris Blankenship shared with a Reclaimer using S3. Lo and behold, it worked perfectly. Essentially it’s a S3 bucket policy that allows anyone to see files, but not list them at —which is exactly what I needed. Here it is, just replace Bucket-Name with your S3 bucket name:

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Sid": "PublicReadGetObject",
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Principal": "*",
            "Action": [
            "Resource": [

From AWS’s S3 to Digital Ocean Spaces

The other thing I’m currently working on is transferring all the media for the Mastodon instance from AWS’s S3 to Digital Ocean’s Spaces because Spaces is 1,000,000x easier than S3. The S3 bucket policy feature is, to be sure, powerful  for those in the know, but the AWS interface remains a nightmare to navigate for the rest of us. The above permissions policy gives you a taste of that, compare the above code block with doing the same thing in Digital Ocean’s Spaces. It is a radio box selection in the setup screen, and even provides some understandable guidance.

Screenshot of Digital Ocean's Spaces's option for disabling File Listing

Digital Ocean’s Spaces provides option for disabling File Listing

Anyway, I’m cloning the S3 bucket over to spaces using the rclone tool that Digital Ocean has a good tutorial. Once everything is moved over I’ll need to update the environment variables for object storage and see if the move is that simple, not sure if the database stores full URLs for media that need to be overwritten, but assuming not given that would be a lot of overhead and somewhat counterintuitive.

Adding Certbot Renewal as Cronjob

Another bit that Tim Owens tipped us off on that I wanted to get documented is that when we installed Mastodon on Reclaim Cloud using the Debian VPS, we setup the SSL certificate using certbot, but forgot to setup a cronjob to check to see if we need to renew daily, so I manually renewed the certbot with the following command:

certbot renew

After that, be sure restart nginx:

systemctl reload nginx

That being done, I updated the crontab on this server to check for certbot updates daily  using crontab -e to edit the file, and then added the following line to the bottom of that file:

43 6 * * * certbot renew --renew-hook "systemctl reload nginx"

I found this StackExchnage thread that suggested adding --renew-hook "systemctl reload nginx" to the daily certbot renewal check, so that if the certificate renews nginx will be restarted. We’ll see how that works out in a few months.

Posted in Mastodon, Reclaim Cloud | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Web 2.0 and Web3 Walk Into a Bar…

A few weeks ago I wrote about preparing for this presentation for OER23. I had no idea how fitting the title would be given the previous day left me with a hangover from exhilaration that I was nursing much of the day. But it worked pretty well for this talk because while I was super excited to start describing the karaoke scene at Johnny Foxes the night before….

OER23, Inverness, 5th and 6th April 2023.
Here, another barnstorming performance from Jim Groom

…much of the rest of the talk was a much calmer meditation on the federation of blogs in the heady Web 2.0 days thanks to RSS and trackbacks to suggest how that overlaps with the sense of excitement and promise of a federated web experience using Web3 tools like Mastodon driven by ActivityPub. I think there may be a recording of the session with slides available at some point, and if so I will grab a copy and link it here. I do have the slide deck with links, and even without the audio it gives a pretty good sense of the talk given it was pretty straightforward.

It was a session that provided an occasion to reflect on blogging and the technology that undergirds that practice as an ongoing force of open education. It’s an idea that’s still near and dear to the work I do and the raison d’être of this site, and being in a room with people who have blogged, still blog, or may even start blogging is always a thrill. I also tried to pay homage to Jon Udell, whose work continues to be crucial for my understanding of the the web, given he helped the talk take shape via interactions on Mastodon—in many ways making my point for me.

But let me break down the highlights and include links here so they are not locked away in a Google Slide deck. I should really be using SplotPoint!

You Looked Hotter Online…

The first slide was basically the punchline to the talk title, and is an assignment created by ds106 alum Sarah of I’m Like So Blonde fame. The question is who looked hotter online? And who is Web 2.0? And who is Web3?

Web 2.0 = Social Web; Web3 = Federated Web

Web 2.0 Boy

The above slides are basic one-liner definitions and proof I was there when Web 2.0 started 🙂

Web 2.0 Meme Map

Web 1.0 services versus Web 2.0 services

I talked a bit about Web 2.0 and Tim O’Reilly’s framing of the shift away from Web 1.0, to a more user-driven, social web. I then talk a bit about how Jon Udell’s feedback on Mastodon helped me frame the talk around RSS, trackbacks, permalinks, and some of the Web 2.0 technologies that made blogging much more about participation, interaction, and sharing rather than Publishing with that intentional capital “P.”*

I then do the contractual shout-out to ds106 and the assignment bank, which is driven by participation using tagged RSS feeds, which stands as a brilliant DIY example of a Web 2.0 teaching and learning application built on top of WordPress.

“Twitter has developed into brands talking to brands.” Paraphrasing Jon Udell

I then paraphrase Udell’s note that Twitter has devolved into “Brands talking to brands,” which rings so true, and how Web3 and the open protocols such as ActivityPub are reminiscent of the OG days of blogging.

Web3 = Federated Web (not crypto web)

Web3 Foundation Definitions

I also provide some very cursory definitions of Web3, and I believe the is a legit organization, but I am nervous Mike Caulfield is going to tell me it is a Russian front website for the overthrow of Western ideals. But I think it was founded by Gavin Wood who is the CTO of Ethereum, and while a bit Dick Blockchainy flirting with the whole liberterian ethos—which scares me—I think the basic definitions hold-up. But I will acknowledge this is a place I could have done more research and waiting until after karaoke-palooza the night before the talk was not good planning 🙂

“Of Course the Attention Economy is Threatened by the Fediverse”

I then talked about Jon Udell’s discussion of Twitter and the attention economy and why I’m shifting my attention to Mastodon given there’s a sense of possibility and excitement that has long been gone for me on Twitter. I skipped a few slides in this summary, but that’s a general jist of the talk.

But I’m no longer employed in the attention economy. I just want to hang out online with people whose words and pictures and ideas intrigue and inspire and delight me, and who might feel similarly about my words and pictures and ideas. There are thousands of such people in the world, not millions. We want to congregate in different online spaces for different reasons. Now we can and I couldn’t be happier. When people say it can’t work, consider why, and who benefits from it not working.

One of the salient points made in the follow-up Q&A by Anne-Marie Scott, discussing the above quote from Jon Udell’s aforementioned post, was beyond hanging out with people you like in these new spaces, communal servers like offer the potential for shared management to ensure they remain troll-free and folks adhere to the server’s stated policies. The invisible work of managing social media comes back to the community in Web3, and that represents a form of labor and connection with the spaces that suggest a powerful shift that needs to be recognized and negotiated. In fact, Anne-Marie was full of insightful comments like this throughout OER23, and I would like to thank her for bringing that brilliance to this talk. Anyway, it was a fun talk in a warm, welcoming room at a brilliant conference. Thanks OER23!


*There was a time during the early blogosphere days when the MSM, or main stream media, was the enemy. Blogs were an alternative press that had the reach and possibility to challenge the dominant narrative, whereas Web 2.0’s consolidation into a few popular social networks would eventually make it just another commodified publishing outlet.

Posted in OER23, presentations | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Visual Note-taking at OER23

I am still blogging about OER23 because it was the best 1-star conference I have been to yet.

OER23 Polaroids, Day 1

Shot taken featuring some Visual Thinkery T-shirt Art at the Bluffer’s Workshop

I have to be careful how much I publicly praise Bryan Mathers given we currently have him doing some new art for Reclaim and I would hate for any more demand to jack up the costs 🙂 But as anyone who has worked with him knows, his work is pure gold and a deal at any price! Bryan Mathers’s pre-conference workshop “A bluffer’s guide to Visual Thinking,” was wonderful to start off the OER23 experience, who’s warmer and more welcoming than Bryan? Not to mention a host of amazing folks like Catherine Cronin, Frances Bell, and LC at the same table thinking through and drawing the values of Open.

OER23 Polaroids, Day 1

Frances Bell and Catherine Cronin after Bryan Mather’s workshop at OER23

Bryan’s workshop not only got Lauren and I thinking about how we can use zines for Reclaim Hosting, but it also opened my eyes to. the possibilities of visual note-taking. And like any good learning experience, I was inspired to take visual notes at the following morning’s opening keynote “Hyper-Hybrid Futures?” by Rikke Toft Nørgård.

Visual Note-taking at OER23

Visual Notes from Rikke Toft Nørgård Plenary

Rather than tweeting or taking photos, I listened and took visual notes based on the ideas in the talk. And this talk was chock full of visually rich ideas. I see so many threads from the notes above that take me back to the talk, whether its a hybrid tiger-owl, or Towel, or the what an atmosphere for OER would look like? I loved that question, and it immediately made me think of containers, and then VR, and then brains in glass jars, which was weird—The Man with Two Brains anyone? There is also the femedtech quilt, a fediverse diagram, an “open” heart, and an effigy of Bryan Mathers. I spy a polaroid camera, GO-GN penguins, and much more. It gives you a sense of all the things mentioned leading up to Rikke’s talk. Her talk coincides with the chimerical Towel, which then made me think of the Owlbear from AD&D, only to see Honor Among Thieves the following week and learning about the Owlbear kerfluffle. In fact, looking at my notes Rikke’s hybrid monster images really sent me down a Dungeons & Dragons rabbit hole. I spent a good part of the talk drawing a full-page Beholder, which is an interesting way to think about her talk given it was such a fresh, monstrous vision of the world of OER we have been trapped in.

OER23 Visual Note Taking: Beholder

Visual Notes from Rikke Toft Nørgård Plenary

And the talk also dug into some really powerful and resonant topic like hoping in the face of the apocalypse, what gets framed as Hopepunk. A concept I both love and truly believe in, and that made be draw narwhals and unicorns, because the tone of the whole talk was somehow magical, as if Rikke had cast a spell on us all!

Visual Note Taking

Visual Notes from Rikke Toft Nørgård Plenary

There was then talk of glaciers and giving the Ganges River personhood, as well as what OER for Bees would look like, WTF?

Visual Note-taking at OER23

Visual Notes from Rikke Toft Nørgård Plenary

It was a brave, beautifully outlandish talk that really resonated with the OER23 crowd, and as you can see from my rudimentary visual notes, it helped me remember so many moments that might have otherwise been lost in the oblivion of my mind. It was a really fun process, and giving myself the permission to doodle throughout thanks to Bryan’s workshop made both the experience and the re-living of it while writing this that much more pleasurable. YEAH!

Posted in OER23 | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

A Magical Day at OER23, Part 2

Where did I leave off in part 1 of this post? Oh yeah, that’s right I stopped after narrating the magic that was the Gasta session because in many ways it represents a natural break because the energy was so intense that immediately afterwards my head was spinning. It was ostensibly an impossible session to follow, but the programming committee knew what they were doing when the put Anna Wendy Stevenson in that spot, because her keynote was brilliant. In many ways it was a practical counter-part to Rikke Toft Norgard’s speculative vision of hyper hybrid futures that got us started that morning.

OER23, Inverness, 5th and 6th April 2023.
Here, Anna-Wendy Stevenson (UHI) gives the Plenary. Image Credit: Tim Winterburn

Stevenson’s talk grounded everyone in the room by discussing the completely online, distributed music degree offered through the University of the Highlands. This program highlights an alternative to ways online has been imagined for more than a decade (i.e. MOOCs) that often trump-up efficiency and scale, but to echo Martin Weller’s point in his OER23 reflection post, Anna-Wendy’s talk highlighted how distance ed “allows people to stay embedded in their local culture.” This has particular resonance for the music, culture, and language of the islands off Scotland, but it’s also a vision of distance ed that travels well beyond that context, and her keynote really made me think of the culture around ds106 (all great things do) and the fact she followed up this brilliant talk with an reception concert consisting of her playing traditional songs from that region alongside three of the program’s graduates, it powerfully tied it all together.

OER23, Inverness, 5th and 6th April 2023
Drinks and dinner reception at An Lochran. Image Credit: Tim Winterburn

And that marked the official close of the program for Day 1 of OER23, but that was by no means the end of the day! The energy was pretty amazing as you can imagine, and upon returning to downtown Inverness from campus, some of the participants met up at the Black Isle Brewery, that just happens to serve some amazing pizza. We ate there the night before in the “pizza huts” on the roof, as Lauren has documented on her fine “Mini-Moments at OER23” post.

Great pizza and conversation on the rooftop of Black Isle (alternate caption: dinner in a Pizza Hut). Image and caption credit: Lauren Hanks

The nice thing about the social events at OER23 was that they were not over-engineered. It was come as you please, stay as you like, and feel free to avoid them all together. I do think while it was awesome to be face-to-face again, it could also be both awkward and exhausting given it’s been a minute. After a full day I was tempted to have a quick pizza and soda and then quietly tap out to work on the following day’s presentation. But, the company at Back Isle was amazing (no surprise there), so when Joe Wilson (who has a great post about the event—as so many have now) mentioned karaoke at nearby Johnny Foxes I knew my presentation prep would have to wait. I love me some karaoke, and a crew from the Black Isle merrily made their way over, which means a built-in audience 🙂 What happened after that? Well, let me tell you….

OER23, Inverness, 5th and 6th April 2023.
“Another barnstorming performance from Jim Groom.” Image Credit: Tim Winterburn

As the images above from the ridiculously talented Tim Winterburn might suggest, it’s a story I tried to tell before. In fact, this is me relating what happened at Johnny Foxes that night. I look pretty animated, don’t I? That’s because I was, Johnny Foxes was awesome, but not because my karaoke was any good, but because the place—like Inverness more generally—was yet another character in the story of OER23, and this pub just happened to host Wednesday night karaoke, and folks just happened to come to sing and dance and have fun. OER23 attendee Antonio Arboleda brought his A-game with a brilliant rendition of La Bamba. After seeing that I wanted in, so I requested a spot knowing it would be as much as an hour wait. But I was having fun and chatting about conferences past and present so no worries. After about 30 minutes or so Tom Farrelly was called for his song, which was AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top,” but the crowd had changed since Antonio sang. Before it was a small, fairly subdued crowd, but in the ensuing 30 minutes the bar had filled up with a squadron of 20-somethings and the energy was dialed up several notches. I was beginning to regret requesting to sing given this was not my Gen-X bretheren anymore, and my Pixies song was not likely to resonate.

It's a Long Way to the Top if you wanna rock with Tom!

I’m not sure if Tom had these same misgivings, but that did not stop him from getting up an absolutely killing his song. It was really something to behold. The crowd was in it, and he was grooving, and I heard there may even be video or two out there, but I can neither confirm nor deny such things. But even after Tom sang the place got even more intense, someone pulled out “Hotel California” and it was a full-on stadium-like sing-along. I was beginning to shake in my boots, a couple of songs followed and I was debating ducking out, but folks like Kate Molloy, Joe Wilson, Tanya Elias, and Bonnie Stewart kept me accountable. So, they called my name and I sang “Debaser” and it was a blast. I don’t remember much given I was in outer-body mode. But I do know I lost my voice from the raucous screaming, and it just so happens Kate Molloy caught it for posterity—probably for worse than better. I still can’t watch it given I know it will never be as good as I thought it sounded in my head, and I have enough disappointment already looking in the mirror, so I don’t need an interactive version that yells at me 🙂

It was an absolute blast, but that was not even the highlight. Soon after a twenty-something got on the stage and did the Rocky Horror Picture Show tune “Time Warp” and the entire place was on its feet doing the dance. The place blew up! It was absolutely off-the-hook amazing, and as I was leaving the bar soon after Bonnie and I compared notes and it was clear that what we just experienced in Johnny Foxes was truly special, and that was the way day one of OER23 ended for me. Walking back to my hotel room without a voice, an under-prepared presentation, and a sense of absolute bliss I have felt few other times in my life. That is what I was trying to communicate in the polyptych above, and this two part post, but it may also just might be true you had to be there.

Posted in OER23, open education, reclaim | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Reclaim Community

Image of the Reclaim Community page

Reclaim Hosting’s new Community page which aggregates all our various community spaces online

It’s been live for a bit now, but I am finally getting around to writing a bit about Reclaim Hosting’s new micro-site that essentially aggregates all the different channels that we use to communicate the work we do more broadly. Lauren Hanks spear-headed this project, and worked with Taylor Jadin and Tom Woodward to build out the site using Bryan Mathers’ TV set art to communicate those channels with pizzazz!

There isn’t an individual thing that automatically makes a ‘Capital C’ Community, but rather a bunch of small, intentional moments that, when combined, is rather special.

The above quote from Lauren Hanks’s post about her work designing the community site really captures the spirit of how Reclaim Hosting has been community building over the last decade. Small, intentional interactions across our various platforms to connect with others in authentic ways. So this project was an attempt to take stock of the various places we do this, not only so we have a clearer sense of our community but also as an opportunity to clean up our namespaces a bit. Since almost the beginning the subdomain has been home to our Discourse forum, but as we’ve added additional elements like our Reclaim Roundup newsletter, Discord server, more consistent video production as part of the Reclaim EdTech push (much of which came to be as recently as last year). We quickly realized the forums were just one slice of the broader Reclaim community, so to that end we created a broader umbrella to try and capture the various channels we’ve been using to communicate and interact.

Reclaim EdTech’s Watch site, inspired by the YouTube/Discord mashup that drove OERxDOmains21

The fine-tuning of those channels is still a work-in-progress. Reclaim EdTech’s Watch site, based on the YouTube/Discord mashup that drove OERxDomains21, is a thing of beauty for the way it integrates those two technologies so seamlessly, but I would like for us to do more with PeerTube in the coming months to make that an equally viable alternative to YouTube. Building out these environments is not simply marketing, although it is that, it’s also us doing the work of edtech’s to experiment with spaces that bring people together to connect and encourage them to share the work they’re doing. It’s not easy work, and if you are lucky you’ll have as many wins as losses. But it’s the work I enjoy most, playing with these environments to see what sticks, and sharing how we did it along the way. It’s the best kind of open, iterative practice, and it fits well with my penchant to try and blog everything 🙂

Posted in OERxDomains21, reclaim, Reclaim Edtech, ReclaimTV | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Building Reclaim Hosting’s Discord Server

Things have been moving pretty fast between travel, amazing conferences, Reclaim awesomeness, etc., that I’m bound to fall behind or even miss a few things on the old But one video I wanted to post was a conversation Lauren and I had about building out Reclaim Hosting’s Discord server. It was the first installment of our 3-part flex-course focused on “Building Community with Discord.” This episode aired on Tuesday, April 5th, and the flex-course is finishing up tomorrow with the final installment, “The Future of Discord at Reclaim,” which airs at 12 Pm ET.

Lauren did all the heavy lifting on building the various iterations of our Discord servers, and in this session she walks-through her work and even shares a template for others to build off. My role is simply to narrate some of Reclaim’s history with Discord, as well as add some color commentary. The bits that are fun in terms of that history is how the OERxDomains21 conferences experience, which used Discord as its backbone, was inspired by various influences such as,, and the Digital Ocean Deploy conference in 2020. These three examples helped us frame what we wanted for OERxDomains21, which was also the moment where we realized Discord will be crucial for just about everything we wanted to do for that conference when it came to creating a sense of community.

Posted in OERxDomains21, reclaim, Reclaim Edtech | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Reclaim Today: OER23 Reflections

On Friday Lauren and I sat down to reflect on some of the highlights from OER23, which took place in Inverness, Scotland from April 4th until the 6th. It also provided a welcome excuse to re-visit all the good energy from that event, which was an absolute treat. This video is also doubling as episode 37 of Reclaim Today, given we have a history of reflecting on all the great OER events we’ve attended over the years. I twas an awesome conference, and great to try and bottle a bit of that spirit as we head into Reclaim Open in just under two moneth!

Posted in OER23, reclaim, Reclaim Open, Reclaim Today | 2 Comments

A Magical Day at OER23, Part 1

I’m sitting in Schipol Airport jotting this down before I catch another flight to London, so this will be brief. I know I said in a previous post I would try and blog small, more regular bursts from the conference, but I got fully swept away with its undertow of awesome. I’m just coming up for air now, but a part of me could have stayed in Inverness.

I think Day 2—or the first official day of the conference, Wednesday April 5th—may have been the best single day of any conference I’ve ever attended. Putting it up there with NorthernVoice 2007 and OpenEd 2009, it was simply magic! I know I’m not to be trusted because I speak in hyperbole fairly often, but I will say I deeply needed to be in Inverness with the rest of the amazing folks who made the trek to feel truly alive again. I fed off the energy, maybe too much, but it fed something deep in my soul that had been starving. As Brian Lamb joked on our trip up the West Coast in February, “You’re a seeker.” And I’m beginning to think that he’s right, I’m seeking something as amazing as Day 2 of OER23 on a more regular basis!

Seeking in the desert

Why day 2? Well, it is unfair because the whole event was amazing, Bryan Mathers workshop of thinking visually was brilliant, and hanging out with Lauren as we got settled into Inverness was about as pleasant as could be. Inverness played a gigantic role in how great this experience was, and I think just about everyone who was there would agree. In fact, I was up quite late Day 1 given I had forgotten I was on the hook for a Gasta session, and I started to panic a bit, and that might have been the start of the manic energy that helped shape my experience of the next day…DAY 2!

One Does not simply Gasta!

Day 2 had me up early trying to finish my presentation after writing an SOS email to Brian Lamb and Grant Potter for ideas for my Gasta session. I like working under pressure, and one of the things about in-person conferences like this is how generative they can be with all the discussions, chats, interplay, and joking feeding one’s creativity and sense of connection. I think that all fed into not only my Gasta session, but my other talks the following day. When you’re in a place committed to a thing with other people, there’s a different sense of being there—and for me it let me step away from my usual routine at the keyboard and dig in on what’s right there in front of me in a new context with a self-selected group of people who made a similar sojourn.

Welcome to Inverness

Anyway, after working on my Gasta early morning Lauren and I got some coffee and then headed to the University of the Highlands, Inverness, which was an awesome venue for the event. I was chatting with Anne-Marie Scott (I did a lot of that at this event), and she commented that bringing it back to a campus setting and grounding the event in a university environment was welcome, and I have to agree.

Hyper-Hybrid Futures

First up was Rikke Toft Norgard keynote, which started the official event off with what Bryan Mathers noted was “definitely his kind of crazy”:

It was a wild talk filled with chimerical beasts right out of the AD&D Monster Manual, and she threw out provocations like what would “an atmosphere for OER look like,” which is something I am fascinated by not only because of Bryan Mathers’ art for Reclaim Cloud, but it pushes the idea of open education off the two dimensional textbook page into three dimensions. I took visual notes for the talk, nothing as awesome as Bryan’s featured above, but I will blog this talk separately because I think the theme of is huge, and a really powerful way forward.

Rikke and her mom were an amazing presence at OER23—and a brilliant way to kick off the day.

Image thanks to Tim Winterburn (click image for more)

After that, I attended a session with Beck Pitt and Fereshte Goshtasbpour discussing their work with OER in Kenya followed by a session wherein Kate Molloy discusses how she liberated the open content at University of Galway from the VLE with H5P and Hypothesis. It was an awesome start to what what prove a constant throughout the conference: top-level sessions. Kate definition of her work as a pragmatic open edtech appeals to me on some truly foundational levels of what we do as edtechs, and the fact a small, scrappy group (or was it just Kate?) can push adoption at the scale of the university is amazing. That is open for me! Moreover, I had the good fortune of catching up with Kate extensively, and her humor and candor about the work of open really exemplifies the warm spirit of OER23. The idea of “doing the work” remains a mantra at Reclaim, so the following image really appealed to me!

Small ideas and doing the work!

After that, I took an hour out of the schedule to catch-up with Anne-Marie Scott and discuss her recent life changes as well as dig in a bit on what it might look like to congeal the work already happening in the edtech sphere around open infrastructure. It was great catching-up with Anne-Marie, the radio had kept us connected for years now—but being able to hang-out in-person was even that much better.

Image thanks to Tim Winterburn (click image for more)

After that it was lunch, and I was beginning to worry about the Gasta session happening later that day. I tried to get in a few polaroids and enjoy a quick bite, and then Lauren and I stole away to rehearse our talk for the next day. The afternoon session I attended featured the state-wide OER program in Colorado followed by Tanya Elias talking about OER and scale—both of which worked together beautifully in terms of practical applications and larger, conceptual musing on the costs and affordances of small versus scaled open. It was an absolutely brilliant pairing of two really great presentations—and that was a theme. And Tanya was yet another amazing presence at this conference, the Canadians always bring their A-game!

Tanya Elias at OER23

Lauren and Hayley at OER23

The vibe across the conference was generally like that, the rooms were cozy and warm, and when we all re-convened in the main hall for plenaries in was packed and crackling with energy. Knowing this, I took the hour dedicated to workshops on day 1 to finish my ill-prepared Gasta session. Did I mention that…

One Does not simply Gasta

You see, Maren Deepwell and Tom Farrelly had reached out in early March about doing a session, and knowing the history I happily agreed. But I also did not fully understand the expectation and pressure around Gasta, and had some odd assumption Tom and I would follow-up. But life took over and I went into work mode, and by the time I lifted my head again I was looking at the program in Inverness the day before the conference only to be reminded the Gasta session was on Day 2. “How was I reminded?” you ask. Well, by seeing my name on the list of the online schedule.

From the Featured Sessions Online Programme Page

I’m not going to lie, there was a certain amount of panic given I was ill-prepared, but I also work well under pressure in these contexts, as mentioned earlier, given how much I feed off the good energy emanating everywhere. The value of being embedded in your community for a couple of days with a shared focus is impossible to fully capture here. Anyway, as I already said I sent a SOS email to Grant Potter and Brian Lamb for two of the main jokes I would use in the Gasta that first evening, and some ideas started to coalesce, and I pushed on it the next night so that by the afternoon of day 2 I could just try and memorize some of the jokes, add some of the polaroids I had taken, and see if I could make sure the timing was right. It was my first attempt at an open ed stand-up routine. Far from perfect, but absolutely a blast. You only have five minutes, so timing is everything  and everyone presenting before me seemed to understand that brilliantly. It was A-game city, a conference constant—did I mention that already? 🙂

Anyway, the session happened, and I’ve never felt that kind of energy in any room I’ve ever been in for a conference session—it was really hard to describe. It was like all of us were locked into an amusement park ride for the following 20-25 minutes, and we had no choice but to just fully be all-in and go along for the ride together. It was truly a magical moment for me, and I think after it was done there were at least a few other folks who felt similarly. Everyone was amazing, Tom Farrelly’s work as the host of Gasta was truly phenomenal, a performance for the ages, and that was only made better by each and every brilliantly delivered Gasta session by Eamon Costello, Maggs Amond, and Lou Mycroft—truly a crescendo of awesome that all came shattering down when I got up there, but I’ll save that story for another post 🙂

OER23 Gasta Crew

But the audience was in it, every person was there and the eyes and smiles and surprises looking back at us was what enabled this moment to happen as it did—and to have been there and partook of that moment is something I now have and will be forever grateful. OER23 was the thing memories are made of through true and meaningful personal connections, and in some ways every Gasta session was about just that.

What’s “Big Tech” got to do with Gasta? Image courtesy of Anne-Marie Scott

And to be clear, at this point I am just about half-way through the day, and in order to finish this post before talking about the final plenary, after-party and karaoke, let me just leave you with this bit of wisdom to arbitrarily close part one of day 2: “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock like Tom Farrelly!”

It's a Long Way to the Top if you wanna rock with Tom!

Posted in OER23, open education, open source, reclaim | Tagged , | 10 Comments

10 Years Off the Sauce

Today marks ten years since I’ve had a drink,* and that is a very important moment in my mind. This 10 year anniversary has become something of a magical number that, if ever achieved, would mark an almost irrefutable victory over my struggle with alcohol. That said, I know it’s not, and the struggle will continue until I am dead. But, when I stopped drinking on April 10, 2023 it was because I was at risk of losing everything that mattered to me: my wife and kids.

10 years later I am still married and I’m not an estranged dad. What’s more, I even added a few awesome pets along the way 🙂 It’s funny because at OER23 there was a lot of talk of 10 year anniversaries: GO-GN turns 10; Rikke Toft Nørgård, finished her PH.D 10 years ago; Reclaim Hosting turns ten this July; and now I, also, have been off the sauce for a solid decade.

My life remains far from perfect. I still have a temper; I still piss the people closest to me off regularly; I’m still a royal pain in the ass at times; but if I hadn’t stopped drinking it would have all been that much worse. I owe so much of my happiness over the last 10 years to finally making the decision to quit drinking, and all the inner peace that followed stems from that decision. It has resulted in a level of personal and professional success I might have only dreamed of otherwise. I have more than a few people to thank that helped me get sober, and two who helped me almost immediately were Tim Owens and Andy Rush, they where there for me when I was at my absolute lowest, and I will never forget how much their support during those dark days meant. My dad, who also struggled with alcohol, was a surprising source of support. But more than anyone,  I would not be writing this or even doing a ten year victory lap if Antonella had not forgiven me and let me continue on the road of life with her

Here is to 10 years on the wagon, and all the irreparable joy and redemption it has given me.


*Although that is not entirely true because I did have one beer in Barcelona given there were historical conditions beyond my control, ask me about that story if we ever sit down and have “a drink.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

OER23 Polaroids, Day 1

Collection of polaroids taken during the first day of OER23. This was more of a mellow onboarding, pre-confernece workshop day. Bryan Mathers ran an awesome workshop that I will be blogging in-depth tomorrow, but for now let the images of the awesome people I crossed paths with today suffice.

OER23 Polaroids

OER23 Polaroids

OER23 Shots

OER23 Polaroids, Day 1

OER23 Polaroids, Day 1

OER23 Polaroids, Day 1

OER23 Polaroids, Day 1

OER23 Polaroids, Day 1

OER23 Polaroids, Day 1

OER23 Polaroids, Day 1

OER Polaroids, Day 1

Posted in Flickr, OER23 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment