OER20: Scaling in the Open

So another presentation at a conference in the books! I never thought I’d present virtually, let alone in my dining room (peep the microwave in my background during the videos), but the folks at ALT sure do know how to throw a shindig! I’ve enjoyed the conference so much and hearing all the wonderful work folks in the community have shared over the last couple of days! I wanted to share a little transcript of sorts for my presentation along with the slides. If you also want to watch the presentation– the moderators of the session recorded it!

The webinar was spammed with trolls (and haters let’s be honest) so unfortunately, I did not have a chance to do a real Q&A during my timeslot so if you have any additional let me know in the comments below!


Before I dive too deep into my presentation I want to thank everyone in ALT and the OER20 conference co-chairs and committee for the incredibly hard work they’ve put in to make OER20 a huge hit. I know it wasn’t an easy feat to move an entire conference online in just a couple of weeks, but you all have managed to seamlessly, creating a major space for collaboration and conversation. 

Also just a quick note, Jim Groom, Lauren Brumfield, and I recorded a little podcast where we dive into the topic of Scaling in the Open. We’ve posted this on Youtube, so be sure to check the session description or head over to our Youtube channel to continue the discussion after this presentation! 

So in today’s day and age, traditional classroom environment, students/user/professors, can often find themselves stuck into platform restraints, behind what’s like a closed door. Students are unable to take their content with them when the course ends or they graduate.  An important part of digital literacy and agency is ownership of the content created online. You should own your content, be able to take that with you. 

At Reclaim Hosting, we’re all about the data ownership and digital literacy. We offer hundreds of open source applications in one-click installers, where users can spin up a WordPress or Omeka site in a matter of minutes. But, after the site is created, what next? Often times, learning a new tool can be daunting, with no clear place to start. 

For the last 4 months I’ve been working to develop a support infrastructure that is conscious of the community around Reclaim, while fostering learning internally. But while I say 4 months, cultivating and fostering community and learning is more the ethos of Reclaim Hosting. We’re really all about teaching.

So how does Reclaim create an environment of learning and empowering where users are encouraged to branch out to learn a new tool without teaching users one-on-one? 

At Reclaim, our staff of 7 have scaled our support resources to serve a large online community that spans across our Shared Hosting users, and even our Domain of One’s  Own Institutions where the Administrators then support their community on campus.

So I’m going to start by talking about 2 of the 5 tools shown in the slide. Slack and Zendesk are 2 of the biggest tools Reclaim uses on a regular basis to ensure the company is running and we’re interacting with our customers. Slack is our virtual office, even more so today, and Zendesk is our ticketing tool we use to interact with the customer who needs help. 

The 3 other tools, Discourse, WordPress, and Asana are all tools we use as a team to manage projects, and work to teach and foster a larger community.

Asana is mainly used as our internal project management system, where we keep track of projects across all factions of Reclaim, from the sales perspective, support, and infrastructure. Most of these projects involve multiple people from each team, so it’s important for us to manage tasks in one place. One project in particular is our Documentation project, managing our documentation articles, that you may see in places like Discourse and WordPress. 

Which brings us to our next tool, Discourse. Discourse serves many functions within the Reclaim-sphere. It’s home to so many niche communities where folks can come together,internal documentation where the Reclaim Hosting staff can learn new topics for support ticket scenarios, and it’s used to document and ask questions. 

Through our staff documentation and general how-tos we can guarantee that users and Reclaim’s staff have a good base to continue their learning, and even be encouraged to branch out to learn more as they gain confidence with their new found skills.

Along with the staff documentation and general how-tos, we also have a ton of niche communities, like Tom Woodward and WordPress Multisite, Paul Hibbits through Grav, and Alan Levine with SPLOTs to name a few– many of which have become major tools in Reclaim Hosting environment through DoOO or to the broader community as a whole. Some articles have been viewed thousands of times.

Speaking of WordPress, that’s the next tool on Reclaim’s tool belt. First we use these as a way for Reclaimers to track learning and growth personally and document what Reclaim is doing as a company. I think I can safely say it’s one of the favorite tools amongst the team. Each employee of Reclaim has their own blog, and we share the work we’ve done. It’s become more of a personal way to curate milestones for me and throws in a little friendly competition amongst the team to check who writes a post first.  

WordPress is also the base for a lot of Reclaim’s infrastructure. The front facing side of Domain of One’s Own is encased in a WordPress wrapper. It’s where institution’s manage users, and access accounts. Along with that, it’s a resource for schools to gather support documentation of their own. 

Like Discourse, this WordPress support documentation. Each DoOO instance has its own support doc, that stems from the folks at the University of Oklahoma created and shared with the larger community. Other institutions then customize these documents to be able to tailor it to their specific environment. These articles and how-tos are another base for the end-user and administrators to feel confident in supporting each other when working with Domain of One’s Own, in turn growing the community ten-fold. 

With that base, supporting a large community becomes a little easier to manage and cultivate. It also stems from amazing minds that put everything together, and I’m honored I get to play a role! 

So from here, I have a few more resources I’ve added to this presentation, for you all to explore on your own time, this will all be posted on my blog after this presentation. So, any questions?


Here are the additional resources I link to as well!

*Header image photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

One thought on “OER20: Scaling in the Open

  1. Greg McVerry, asked “Question for @meredithfierro: How do you define the difference between tutorials and documentation? Does the discourse patterns of discussion board make the line fuzzy? #oer20” https://quickthoughts.jgregorymcverry.com/2020/04/02/question-for-meredithfierro-how-do-you-define

    This is a great question, we use categories as a huge base for making that distinction, we separate most of our posts into How-tos, Staff Scenarios (that only designated users can see), and Application questions. We even have a section for questions and feature requests to allow end-users to jump into the conversation.

    While the discussion board can make the line fuzzy, we have folks like Alan Levine running Domains Camp on the forum which turns the structured “Documentation” to more of a discussion and even conceptual discussions as well.

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