Automations in Zendesk

If you’ve worked with me on a ticket in the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed a new email come into your inbox from Reclaim Hosting support. It might look something like this: 

I’ve been experimenting with a feature of Zendesk that automates some of the processes that Reclaim would normally complete manually, in particular, following up with the client. 

Now don’t get me wrong, following up with the client is very important and we will definitely continue to do this where we can manually. With that said, it does take up time throughout the day and we were looking for ways to improve our agent’s experience while keeping in touch with the client. 

I recently took part one of Zendesk’s training for Support Administrators where they touched on automations. Reclaim already has a few automations set up where we send out a survey after closing out the ticket and closes out the ticket completely after a few days. I was inspired to see where we could use some more automations within Reclaim’s support infrastructure. 

Tim came across an automation method called the Bump Bump Solve where users are notified with automatic follow ups 3 days after there is no response from the Client. The article talks about following up twice before the ticket is solved. The entire process looks like this:

While this method follows up with the client twice, I decided that Reclaim doesn’t necessarily need to follow up twice so, I modified the method to only follow up once before solving the ticket. 

I first tested this out with only tickets assigned to me, this way I made sure everything was going well and the users were notified. To make sure the automations were running as scheduled, I set up an additional notification to send an email to myself whenever the first email was sent out. 

We decided to follow up with users 48 hours after no response, rather than the 72 hours mentioned in the article. This is what the first follow up looks like:

After the automation sends out the follow up, it adds the tag #bump1 to the ticket. That tag is vital to run the next automation, which solves the ticket. 

That automation is very similar to the follow up automation, but instead of sending out an email, it marks the ticket solved.

And that’s it! If we don’t hear from a client in 96 hours from their last update, the ticket is closed out. 

We wanted these automations to be a little nudge to the client to remind them they opened a ticket with us, and allows us to clear out our queues so we can focus what is important in the moment, like helping you!

1 Year with Reclaim

January 30th, 2017, the day that I started as an intern at Reclaim Hosting. Which, at the time of writing this, it was 1 year ago to the day (plus 1). How crazy is that? A year ago I was a second-semester senior, itching to get out in the real world and be done with school. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at UMW but I was done with school. I was so ready to finish my degree and start working. I don’t remember too much about the day, just that I was super nervous because I had no clue where to start in the world of web hosting. But, I seem to remember the day really consisted of paperwork.

Thinking back to where I am today, I’ve learned a ton. Not just in the web hosting community, but about myself as well. So this post is just a bit of reflection in the year that I’ve worked with Reclaim, first as an intern, then part-time, and finally full-time this fall. I wrote about my time as an intern on this blog and what I’ve been up to while full time  (over here).


Keep notes: Yes, note-taking does not stop after high school/college. It may not be as intense as a 50-minute lecture where the professor talks the entire class, but it’s still super useful. There are so many ways to take notes. Lauren uses her blog as a place for notes on specific processes, where I personally have things write them down to stay in my brain, so I keep a little notebook in my bag and jot notes as I go. But, I’m slowly but surely heading towards the blog.

Ask questions: I can’t say it enough, ask questions. Then ask some more. And don’t worry if you think you’re being annoying with all the questions, but that’s really the way to learn. This was one of the hardest hurdles for me to jump, I hate asking questions and avoid it if I can. Clearly, things have changed.

Clarity: Explaining things clearly is key. I’m still trying to get the hang of this, but I’ve found writing more detailed responses helps a ton when you are trying to troubleshoot.

I still have a ton to learn, which is a great thing. I would be worried I did. I definitely want to keep learning, and I can absolutely do that through this job.


Ok now for the fun stuff! What has the year held for Meredith at Reclaim? Well let me tell ya, it was a fun year.

I got to travel, first to Oklahoma in June, then to NYC in November. Both of these trips were incredible. The Oklahoma trip was to Reclaim’s first ever Domains conference in Oklahoma City. 

This was a tremendous experience, one because I got to attend a conference that my company was running, but I got to see the schools and universities we work with through Domain of One’s Own. When working behind a computer, you tend to lose a sense of humanity, but getting to meet people face to face brings that back.

The NYC trip was a perfect opportunity for the Reclaim team to get some team bonding in. I started working full time a couple of months before and it was the perfect time to regroup before the end of the year.

If you’d like to read more about these trips, I wrote blog posts about each (linked above).

I got to see our office space, CoWork, expand to the what it is today. When I came in it looked like this:

Lauren Brumfield’s photo

And this is what it looks like now:

Talk about a space transformation! While I wasn’t completely around for the entire process, it was still super cool to see the midpoint of the renovations to the completed space.

That second CoWork photo brings me to my last big moment of the year. In late October, we ran a workshop covering the ins and outs of Domain of One’s Own. This workshop is catered towards the Domain of One’s Own admins and how they can support the program on their campus. I got to talk through domain migrations and transfers during the second day. Speaking to a group like this was something I’d never done before. It was a great opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. It turned out to be a great presentation and I will definitely jump into more topics like this at our future workshops.


And speaking of comfort zones, 2018 is shaping up to be a big one. In April, Reclaim is heading across the pond to Bristol, England for a two-day conference. During that conference, I’ll be speaking. Yes, I’m speaking at a conference. That’s something I never thought I’d hear see myself say type.  But in all honesty, I’m super excited for this opportunity and nervous at the same time (but it all goes away when I think about the fact I’m going back to England). We’re continuing our workshops as well, the next one is coming up in March.

But who knows where the rest of 2018 will bring! I’m honestly so glad I found this internship with Reclaim that led to a full time position. The opportunities Jim and Tim have given me are incredible, and I’m so grateful. Here’s to a year full of lessons and growth!

Featured Image by Roman Bozhko on Unsplash

Using the Import/Export Tools in WordPress

Lately, I’ve been working with clients to move their website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. With this request, I use the Import/Export tools to move the content from one site to the other. This tool bundles the content on the site into a .zip file which you can then move to another location. Disclaimer: It isn’t perfect, you only get the content of the site, so things like posts, pages, and settings on the site. The plugins, themes, and media arent’ included, so, if your site has a lot of media, or has a ton of plugins, this tool might not work for you. (I’m writing another post about a plugin that will move everything on the site for you so stay tuned).

As I’m writing to the clients with instructions on how to set up their site using these tools, I started looking for a tutorial that would walk them through the process. And can you believe it, there are no tutorials that show the process from start to finish? So I wanted to take the time to write the process down. This article will showcase the import/export tools within WordPress (.com and .org) the process is essentially the same for both, they just look a little different.

But wait, there are two versions of WordPress? Yes, there are, but they are run in different ways.  WordPress, in a nutshell, is an open-source content management software (if you want to look at a more in-depth explanation you can read about it here).  Automattic Inc. helps develop and maintain this software. We offer this software at Reclaim and users can install an instance on their domain, in fact, you’re reading this post on a WordPress installation.

WordPress.com is Automattic Inc.’s hosting company that runs the WordPress software explicitly. They offer free accounts with subdomains like meredithfierro.wordpress.com for free or users can purchase a domain. Then users can opt-in to pay a monthly fee to get full use of the software, like you would if you installed WordPress on your domain through your hosting company.


WordPress.com

Export:

The first thing you’ll want to do is export all of the content. Also, take note of the plugins and theme the site is using (this will save time on the other side).

  1.  Click ‘Settings’ under ‘Configure’ 
  2. Click ‘Export,’ under the ‘Site Tools’ section:
  3. From here you can choose the amount of content you’d like to export, or you can export the entire content on the website. When you’ve decided what to export, click ‘Export’: 
  4. WordPress begins to package the content together. When it finishes, a banner should appear at the top of the screen. Click ‘Download’: 

Import:

  1. Navigate to the ‘Site Tools’ section (steps 1-2 of the Export section). Click ‘Import.’
  2. Click ‘Start Import.’ Upload the exported content file.
  3. Once the file is uploade, click ‘Continue’ to start the import.
  4. You’ll be asked to import the authors of the site, but if you’re the only user on the site click ‘Start Import.’ 
  5. You should see a progress bar like this:

From here you don’t have to stay in the window to keep it going, WordPress.com will send you a notification when the import finishes. Once the import completes, the content on the site is ready to go!


WordPress.org (Software version)

Export:

This process is similar to WordPress.com but I thought it’d be worth going through separately.

  1. Within the dashboard of your site, Navigate to ‘Tools’ and click ‘Export.’ 
  2. From there, you’ll choose what content you’d like to export. Also, take note of the themes and plugins you use. When you’re ready to export click ‘Download Export File.’ 

Easy as that!

Import:

  1. Within the dashboard of your site, Navigate to ‘Tools’ and click ‘Import.’ 
  2. You’ll need to install the WordPress Importer plugin. Click ‘Install Now.’  Once the install completes, click ‘Activate or ‘Run Importer.’
  3. Click ‘Choose File’ or ‘Browse’ to select the export file you’d like to import. Then click ‘Upload file and import.’
  4. When the import is complete, you should see something along the lines of “All done. Have fun!” at the bottom of the screen.

That’s it! The Import/Export tools are super easy to use. They’re a great tool to use when you’re trying to move a small amount of content. Another great tool is UpDraftPro– stay tuned for another post about that.

Working by Myself

So today was a first for me in my support role. I started my shift bright and early this morning and everything was moving slow. Tim and Lauren went off to a meeting and Jim is traveling this week for a conference, so I was by handling support on my own for a short period of time, but this was a normal thing. I felt confident that I could handle each support request that came through and if I didn’t Tim and Lauren would be back by lunchtime and I could ask my questions then. I was completely unprepared for what would commence in the next hour.

A lot of schools are still getting up and running with their semester and that means a ton of sign-ups on our Shared Hosting at Reclaim. This September we had 721 new sign-ups on Shared Hosting. So we knew that things could get a little hairy on days where classes were signing up, like today.

Support was very quiet when all of a sudden the Slack channel for support started going crazy. I checked to see what was going on and a class was having trouble with their signups. Over the course of the next 15-30, I answered about 30 tickets trying to help the students. That’s about Reclaim’s daily average. We get anywhere from 20-40 tickets a day, during working hours. To say I was overwhelmed by this point was an understatement. I had never experienced something like this while I was completely by myself on support.

After a deep breath, I was off. Luckily, I knew how to solve the problems from WHMCS on our admin side so the fix was easy but very time consuming because of a number of tickets that were submitted.

After Lauren and Tim came back from their meeting I explained what was going on. I had most of the tickets solved by this point, there were only a few left that came in during the ordeal but were unrelated to the problem at hand.  I was talking with Lauren about this afterward and she gave me some great advice for a time like this, to compartmentalize things, don’t let the emotion overtake you, and just work on each of them one by one.

Today was such a great learning experience. Even though I was completely overwhelmed, and at first didn’t know where to start, I was able to answer every ticket successfully. And without this experience, I wouldn’t have had that conversation with Lauren and know where I can improve when this happens again (and I hope it doesn’t). I know things can change from one day to the next and some days can be slow for support than others but, I was not expecting today to be one of the busier days. But that’s okay, I’ll take them in stride and learn from the experiences.

Featured image:  by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Repairing a Crashed Table in phpMyAdmin

Yesterday, a ticket came in where a student’s website was not establishing a database connection. I started my usual checks to see what kind of installation she had on her domain. In this case it was a WordPress installation. I went to double check that the username and password in the wp-config.php file was the same as the wp-options table in phpMyAdmin. After trying to open the wp-options I received an error similar to this:

mysql> select * from nagios_servicechecks;

ERROR 1194 (HY000): Table ‘nagios_servicechecks’ is marked as crashed and should be repaired

This error can say a wide range of things, but this fix works when it says that the table should be repaired.

**Note, this error was not what I was working on it’s definitely similar though. I didn’t grab a screenshot of it before fixing the error**

To fix this first click the checkbox next to the table you’d like to repair. Then click the ‘With Selected’ dropdown box. 

Once that’s done, click ‘Go’ on the bottom right of the screen. 

Once complete you’ll see this.

Double check that the site loads now. If you’re still getting the “Error Establishing Database Connection” try refreshing your browser cache or load the site from your phone with the Wi-Fi turned off.

Adjusting to Post Grad

The professional world is in full swing for me at this point. I’ve been with Reclaim as a customer support specialist for almost two months now. It’s kind of surreal to be back in the town where I went to school, not only in the summer, but not getting ready to go back for the fall semester at the end of August. But it an odd way it feels normal.

I am very fortunate and lucky to have a job right out of college, and at a company I interned with no less. And I think that’s why a lot of this feels so normal.

Things were off to a rocky but good start. I’ve found that working from home is one of the hardest things about the job. I was still living with my parents back in June so I was constantly bombarded with the questions “Are you working on a ticket?” (I mean that in the most loving way, mom and dad <3) I also didn’t have a desk in my room/guest room before I moved back for the summer. So I was constantly moving from the kitchen table into the dining room when I needed to jump on a call then eventually back to my bed because the kitchen was too busy to focus. It was frustrating. 

It didn’t help that I had so much to learn (and I still do). Every situation is dynamic, so the solution isn’t always the same. I was constantly asking questions in the help channel in Slack, and having the computer screen as a buffer was not in my favor.

I hate asking for help. Well I shouldn’t say hate, I really dislike it. It’s something I struggle with. I’m more of a work until something gets done, searching for answers on Google and going based off of my knowledge. I try to ask for help only when it’s the last possible option. And I’ve had to ask for help more times than I can count in this job. Ironic right?

That’s something that I’ve really adjusted to, not only this past spring semester, but coming back onto the team in June. When I first started at this job, I realized how high stakes the position could get. If I missed a step, I could really mess something up or even break the internet. The same can be said for most jobs too, when I was a lifeguard over the summer if I didn’t follow the right procedures, a pump could break or even worse, someone could get hurt (but that’s another post for another time). So I knew that asking for help is crucial to getting something done correctly.

I really wasn’t expecting to be so frustrated with myself at this point in post grad life. After graduation, I was so excited to get started with my job and I was looking forward to my little summer break lifeguarding before moving. It really hadn’t sunk in that I was no longer going back to school. To be honest it still hasn’t. I keep thinking that I’ll move back to my apartment that was slightly off campus, and getting ready to work at the Digital Knowledge Center for another year.

With all of those challenges and frustrations, I can honestly say that things have gotten better from there. Being in the office has been such a blessing. I actually have someone I can talk to in person! Whether Tim or Lauren (most of the time both) are in the office, I don’t have to worry about if I am asking a question in the best way. It’s 10000% better to talk out a process and get all the questions out in a conversation rather than typing.

Unfortunately that didn’t last long. Tim and Lauren went on vacation shortly after I was back in the office and I was running CoWork for the week. It was back to the computer screen for help. I wasn’t completely alone on the support side of things. Jim was a super big help, he was not on vacation. Although seeing him live in Italy I’m convinced that living there is a constant vacation in itself. Just check out his twitter. He was around for most of my questions. But I learned how to research for the solutions until I was just stuck or I exhausted every resource. Then I learned the aspect of effective communication because of the buffer that the computer screen provides.

But with that being said, I love my job. I am constantly learning new things. Even though I’m done with the educational part of my life, I’m experiencing a completely different side of higher education. Coming from Mary Washington, I only got to see how the Domain of One’s Own program works as a student. Now I see how different institutions incorporate DoOO/web hosting into their curriculum. There are so many different configurations to this too. I even get to explore a completely new side of the web, that is web hosting, that I knew was a thing, but couldn’t grasp how it works until now.

I interact with people across the world. Just the other day I was helping someone with their website from Ireland. We even have clients from Australia! Speaking of people I work with, I work with people I consider to be great mentors. I have learned a ton of things from Tim, Jim, and Lauren in just my short time working with them.

The office space is awesome too. Since Reclaim is just 4 people, it wouldn’t make sense to get an office for us. CoWork has been another perk. There are so many more people in the office that it’s not just Reclaim any more. I’ve gotten to see the space transform during the construction phase as an intern and its awesome to see it full during the week.


Another thing I love about this job is that I get to travel. Granted, I’ve only gone on one trip for the Domains conference, but who gets to go on a business trip before you even start with the company? I’m definitely looking forward to more travel in my future.

It’s been a whirlwind of a new experiences, emotions, and adjustments over the past few months. I’ve moved back to the city I’ve been in for 4 years and I’m officially on my own. I’ve started a new chapter of my life at Reclaim and I’m so excited to see where this goes! So stay tuned!

**Featured Image by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Embedding Myself into the Professional World

Well, #domains17 is done! We’ve wrapped up on Tuesday and are all home by now. I definitely needed a few days to gather my thoughts for this post. I’m so grateful for this chance to experience what the Ed Tech world is like before I even start my job with Reclaim Hosting. It was a great way to meet tons of new people I will interact with. 

wanted to talk a bit about what I wanted to get out of the conference, how the conference actually was, and what I’m doing after it. 

So I knew that Reclaim was planning a conference in OKC back when I was an intern. Lauren would send messages on Slack of updates to her planning and it was very cool to follow how she was planned out the entire thing. I was looking forward to hearing about all the fun once I started at Reclaim. Then about 2 weeks ago, I received an email from Tim asking me if I could come along with them to OKC. I was on board immediately! I definitely didn’t want to miss the chance to get to hang with the full team before I started and to see what the Ed Tech world was all about.

Now flash forward to Saturday. I was so nervous, anxious, but mostly excited. I was nervous because it was my first exposure to a business conference. I was anxious because I really only knew the Reclaim and UMW crew out of the 80 people that attended. But I was mostly excited for this wonderful opportunity to really jump into my career with both feet before it even begins. 

I arrived at the hotel by the early afternoon and met the whole team to get things set up for the conference. Although the conference really started on Monday, we used Saturday and Sunday to get acclimated to the space and have everything ready for when people got in on Sunday. We all got dinner together along with Adam Croom, the University of Oklahoma liaison for the conference. He and Lauren worked closely to plan. It helped to have someone on the ground who knew the surrounding area and was able to provide awesome recommendations. 

Sunday rolled around and it was a great day full of awesome conversations. Lauren and I started the morning by walking to a local coffee shop called Coffee Slingers. And when I say walked, I mean like 30-40 minutes through the city. OKC is a weird mix of open space, but also you get into the city quickly. It was such a nice morning, despite the rain that I totally didn’t mind walking. I enjoyed the time to get to know Lauren a little more than just from our Internet class with Jim in 2014. It was a great girl bonding morning. After the morning, we met for lunch with Jim and Tom Woodward for another meal full of awesome conversation. Tom talked about his work with Georgetown University. He gave a presentation on his work during the conference, you can read that here.  He also took some awesome photos as well. 

This was my first experience with a conference like this where I am actually involved. I’ve been to other conferences before but never on my own and in this capacity with people who are now colleagues.  But honestly, I couldn’t think of a better way to be introduced to the new professional world than through this conference. Jim, Tim, and Lauren both helped make me feel very welcome by introducing me to people and asking me to be involved with a lot of the conference. 

We kicked off the conference with a Domain Fair, where participants had numerous booths talking about the different projects they were working on. It was a great chance for people to catch up. For me, it was a great experience to see for the first time what people were working on. I was also recognized from Twitter which was insane, I hadn’t thought that my profile would be recognizable!

Then it was time for Martha’s Keynote! Martha Burtis was my boss at UMW, the director of the DKC, and I knew she was going to talk at the conference but I had no idea that I was going to see it. It was totally awesome. At UMW, the Domain of One’s Own project has been around for 4 years. I was a student there when the program started and I’ve seen it grow so much over the years. Martha talked about the DoOO program being at a point of “inflection,” as she called it, to shift the focus from getting the program set up, to a point of deeper thinking about what DoOO really is. Martha said

“I want to spend my time here dwelling on the the inextricable, in this case, why we in higher education must teach our communities to grapple with the Web in these deep and discerning ways — how the Web, and our culture, and our systems of education are bound up with each other and why they demand a particular responsibility of us.”

For me, this quote really stuck. I have noticed a lot of times that people don’t really understand how to navigate the web. And not just students I’ve encountered as a DKC tutor either. Other students and friends take the web for granted very often. It’s important that we teach others how to use the web, what the web represents in our society today, and promoting digital citizenship. Martha continued to talk about DoOO and provided some thought-provoking points. Towards the end of her talk, she mentions my name. I was totally surprised!  She talked about my individual study I did last semester and one of the questions I asked, during the interview process, if the web was a concrete space what would it be? Martha put together all of the answers to that question. It was such a cool video, take a look:

She challenged us to think about what the web would look like if it was a concrete space to us. After I interviewed everyone for the project, I had an idea of what everyone else was saying but I never really put it together like the way Martha did. I thought about and thought about it, then, it hit me that the web was a shipping container. You can do a ton of things with shipping containers, build shelters, buildings, and ship things in them. But when I’m talking about the web as a shipping container, I don’t mean just one of them, there are thousands of them around the world. And they can be transported anywhere in the world. There’s not just one item in them either, there can be a bunch of different products in one container. Just like websites, there are tons of different things within a website.

I thought this example is perfect for what the web represents in my life. My dad works on ships, piloting them from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay up to Baltimore Harbor in Maryland. He travels on all types of ships, car, container, and tanker ships. So I thought to illustrate my example of the web as a concrete space, I would use some of the photos he’s taken from the ships perspective:

Panorama Shot my Dad Took

 

I took this in London when studying abroad.

Another photograph my dad took while on a ship

After Martha’s keynote, the group broke into sessions for the remainder of the conference. This was another great opportunity to see what others are working on. This was very new to me, which was very exciting. But there was a chance for me to step out of my comfort zone as well. I’m used to being behind the scenes of events not presenting in front of other people. During a few of the sessions, I was introducing the speaker. It may seem like a small thing introducing someone but for me, especially since I’m so new to the field, it was pretty daunting. Luckily I got to introduce some of the UMW DTLT crew, so that took a little bit of the nerves away.

The first talk I introduced was Sean Morris and Jesse Stommel’s “If bell hooks made a Learning Management System (LMS).” Their talk was awesome, diving into the question: If bell hooks Made an LMS: Grades, Radical Openness, and Domain of One’s Own. Here are a few quotes from the talk:

I also introduced Jordan Noyes and Lora Taub who examined archiving protests. This was something that I’ve never really thought about. I haven’t participated in a protest before, but after their talk, I was intrigued. So I’ve set this as a new goal, start archiving protests, or participating for that matter.

One of the other talks I went to was from Jess Reingold and Jenna Azar. Jenna is an Instructional Designer at Muhlenberg College, who also runs the Digital Learning Lab, which is just like the DKC. She brought her son along, Jarrett. Jarrett is a Digital Learning Assistant and helps students with their digital projects. It was really interesting to see how the Digital Learning Lab is run as compared to the DKC, and really cool to see the concept that the DKC started to continue to grow.

Jess talked about her time as an Instructional Technology Specialist at UMW. It was really interesting to see that perspective. Here are some quotes:

Overall this trip was one of the best things I could have done to kick off my career. It still hasn’t hit me that I start at Reclaim Hosting this week. I feel refreshed, excited, and motivated to get a start and jump into my work at Reclaim. Thank you, Tim, Jim, and Lauren for this opportunity!

Wrapping Up as an Intern

Well as this semester is wrapping up, I just wanted to write a reflection of my time at Reclaim Hosting. It’s really weird to talk about as the last weeks of my undergraduate finishing up. It still hasn’t officially hit me yet that I’m graduating in May. But things are finalizing all over the place, I just had my last classes and I’ve got a job lined up! I’ve officially accepted a position to stay on the team at Reclaim! I start in June, so I have a little time to enjoy my summer and it will be exciting to move back up to Fredericksburg.

Enough chatter though! Time to get into it. Not too much has been going on. I was still working on documentation for the new company the team has started called Rockaway Hosting (I’ll talk a little more about it in a little). I created a style guide to use with the new articles. Style guides are vital in technical writing. These articles are what the clients will look at if they have a problem. They keep the article flowing in a precise way so that the readers don’t spend too much time on the article. The goal of each article is to solve the client’s problem efficiently. The tricky thing too is that you want clients to stay on your website because they are more likely to click on more pages and posts. Luckily I didn’t have to write the articles, if I did, I would have no idea what to do. Most of the topics were written on topics I never really thought about until I started with Reclaim. But there was a major learning curve, and I actually used the articles to figure out what I needed to do. When I started to go through each article, I learned a lot about the different topics as well, because as I was combing through each article, I would go through the steps to make sure they were accurate. Unfortunately, I did not finish all of the articles, but that’s okay! I can continue going through them when I start in June.

I also wanted to talk about what I’ve learned throughout my time as an intern. For starters, I got to see what it was really like to be in a workplace. I’ve had summer lifeguarding jobs and most recently my job at the Digital Knowledge Center, but those helped me gain skills that I can put towards my career. They were a professional environment to some extent, but they are nothing like a real office space. Even though Reclaim is as casual as it gets, there is still a professional feeling to it that I hadn’t experienced while at my other jobs. I was given projects and I would work on my own. A lot of the time in my other jobs, I would work on projects with other people. This was such a change to start working by myself. I learned a lot about time management and staying away from online distractions.

I learned a ton about web hosting and a lot of components that go into it. It is really such an interesting field in technology. I never realized how intense web hosting is. There are a ton of moving parts, you have what the clients see and what the administrators see. There is a community forum used by the clients to search for help when they run into trouble. Of course, there’s the support side of things, which I have to say is the best part but I’m biased. It’s so fascinating to explore the ins an outs of webhosting, that field is really something I’ve come to enjoy.

So let’s talk about Rockaway Hosting! Jim wrote about it on his blog here (he explains it way better than I will). But Rockaway Hosting is the non-educational counterpart to Reclaim Hosting. Reclaim Hosting is mainly about Domain of One’s Own, which I’ve been involved with through Mary Washington since I started there in 2013. I’ve been working on a project for the program for my individual study, which you can read about here. So Reclaim has been all about educational web hosting. Now Rockaway is different to Reclaim in that it provides different hosting plans and support features for an additional fee. The company was still being built when I first started at the Reclaim, but it has grown so much to start a ‘soft-launch’ and hopefully, soon it will be fully operational! I’m really excited to see Reclaim growing!

But that’s it for me as an Intern! I’m really excited to join the Reclaim/Rockaway Team in June, I’m so fortunate to begin my career with them!

New Projects With Reclaim

Well I’ve been at Reclaim for 6 weeks now! I can’t even believe it, it feels like I’ve been there for months. I’m really enjoying my work and I’m definitely getting the hang of things when answering support tickets. I still ask Tim a ton of questions throughout the day because there is just so much to learn. But in this post I wanted to talk about some new projects I’m tackling for right now, one I started before my spring break and another just this week.

Just before break (so two weeks ago) I started learning a network protocol called Secure Shell or SSH. SSH is a cryptographic network protocol used to navigate through servers remotely, that means you don’t have to log into your account in your browser like you would normally. You use a separate program entirely. On the Mac its called Terminal. Its a very quick, secure, and efficient way to view files and error logs. This comes in very handy for numerous tickets. One ticket came in where the user was having a problem accessing their site at all giving a HTTP 500 error. That usually means that some aspect of the site is broken thus completely breaking the entire site. Using SSH we can go into the site and clear out the bad file to fix the site. Another ticket came in where the user was having trouble with their storage quota. SSH can read the error log right in the program and that allows us to figure out what went wrong. I’m actually struggling with SSH quite a bit however. My brain and code do not mix at all. So its difficult for me to wrap my head around this new type of navigation. But I think I’ll get the hang of it slowly but surely.

 

I started the second this past week. I am now tackling documentation on the community pages. I’m going through all of the articles to update screenshots, and rewrite a few if the process has completely changed. I’m enjoying that as well! Back in the summer of 2015 I tackled that same sort of project for the Digital Knowledge Center. The DKC was in the process of migrating its documentation to another site and I was in charge of creating a style guide and rewriting the documentation accordingly. So I felt like an old pro going through the other documentation at Reclaim. Its very different though. There is a lot more information to understand and a ton of different topics. Its actually helping me learn a lot about other topics that I didn’t know at the DKC, like nameservers, domain management, and other open source platforms.

I also wrote a new article on the community page, for installing themes to an Omeka site. That was a lot of fun, I’ve never used Omeka before and I had to experiment with it before I could write the article. Omeka is relatively intuitive so I was able to write the article very quickly.

On another note, I continually run into a problem when I’m answering tickets. At the DKC we tutor WordPress, which means we can help students edit their website, but at Reclaim the support we provide stops when it comes to actually editing the clients website. I’ve had a few tickets where clients want help actually editing their site and I’ve had to tell them I can’t. I want to help but its out of Reclaim’s wheelhouse. I guess I’m still getting used to the fact that the DKC and Reclaim are two completely separate companies.

But other than that I’m still having a ton of fun and I’m learning every time I step into the office. Stay tuned for more posts!

Learning New Content Management Systems

When I started at Reclaim I realized that I needed to learn some more open-source web platforms than I thought. At Mary Washington, I mainly work with students on WordPress, which makes up the majority of the domains. That’s a different story at Reclaim.  There are multiple applications that access the file manager (which is like the file manager on your computer). I’ve had a couple of tickets where clients needed help with two applications that have access to the file manager: Omeka and Drupal. So I decided I would set up my own subdomains for each application and learn as much as I could. I figured this would help me more when clients need support on those applications.

Drupal:

Drupal is a content management system similar to WordPress. The Interface looks very similar to how you would navigate WordPress, and even add content. But it definitely is not WordPress. Drupal looks a little rudimentary to WordPress but it gets the job done. I spent some time adding test content, pages, themes, and plugins as well. Drupal mainly operates through the interface itself so it does not use the file manager but it’s still very useful to learn since people still use the platform to create content.

Problems I ran into: I struggled when trying to install some themes. There is a specific file type you need to use when installing the specific one I found.  Drupal’s main website has tons of themes and I found it hard to pick just one. When it was time to install the theme I had to download the file to my computer then upload it to my Drupal install. Pro Tip: Don’t use the .zip form of the theme, use the .tar.gz part of the file. That’s where I hit a road block. For a while, I wasn’t able to install a theme and I couldn’t figure out why. Now it really seems obvious that I needed to use that specific file type, but now I know.

 

Omeka:

Omeka is another content management platform where you can create posts for specific items to document them. The items can range from specific historical artifacts to pieces of artwork, and really any item you’d like to document. At Mary Washington, the history department utilizes this tool more than any other department. Omeka mainly uses their interface to create their own content through the back end of that specific install. But Omeka uses the file manager to install and manage themes and plugins. This is a little different than expected but it was very easy to get the hang of. Reclaim has a great documentation website where I was able to look at how to add themes and plugins through the file manager.  I had one support ticket where she needed help with the file manager. After looking into how to use the file manager it takes just a little bit to get used to but it’s useful to have the themes and plugins held in a separate area on the file manager. Using Omeka is very intuitive, the interface lays out all of the options you will need when posting an item.  When you customize the space as well Omeka gives you all the options for customizing the theme around all in one page.

 

All in all both applications are good options for content management. But if it were up to me, I’d definitely recommend using WordPress over anything else 😀