A Distributed Domain of One's Own
The summer has been hot but quiet in Fredericksburg and I've had a lot of fun over the past few weeks working with Martha Burtis to get our new server up and running with the host of software we plan to use to roll out the Domain of One's Own project to all incoming students this fall. It's exciting to see an idea with so much history go from blog post to pilot to University-wide initiative. The Domain of One's Own project is probably the most exciting thing I've done in my professional career and it's certainly an idea that has found its moment as I talk to other educators and institutions about the possibilities and affordances it brings. But ultimately (there's always a but) not every institution has a group like DTLT they've invested in, or a culture that would allow the idea to take hold immediately. Faculty want to know how they can provide their students the affordances of a project like ours if their IT department isn't on board, or they don't have an instructional technology group that can support their experiments. It's time to fix that. I've written before about the history behind Hippie Hosting which serves as a precursor to the Domain of One's Own pilot and informed a lot of the technology and decisions that drive it. We all wanted to stop paying over $120 a year for a web host and come together to run a DIY server coop. 18 months in I can tell you it's been a great and informative journey learning the ropes of running a web host but Hippie Hosting is stronger than ever today. I've talked and dreamed with Jim before about how we could take the Domain of One's Own project and offer it to other institutions and individuals. What would that look like, to form a DIY coop of educational technology support centered around the idea of digital identity and the web? I want to believe that we as educators don't need top-down institutional support to grab at this gold, we need each other. Hippie Hosting didn't get where it is because of being faster, more reliable, or some feature set. Hippie Hosting is valuable because when you have a problem you get to talk to a human being (usually me or some of the other folks on Twitter) and we work together to fix it. No case numbers, no customer ID numbers, real human beings. What if we changed the narrative of "Oh that idea is fine for you all because you've got the support of a great instructional technology group willing to help" and flipped it on its head? This week Jim and I put together Reclaim Hosting as a sort of grand experiment to see where this goes. Our goal is simple: If you are planning to offer a class in the Fall that would benefit from offering your students domains and web hosting, we want to make that happen for you. Thanks to support from the Shuttleworth Foundation we aren't going to charge anything for web hosting, we'll cover that along with the software to make it all happen. We just need you to cover the cost of the domains ($12/student). Our pilot will run from August - December with the goal of learning, building, and growing this thing so we can open the doors widely in the Spring. If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, we need you to go to http://reclaimhosting.com/join to fill out a short form so we have a better idea of what our numbers look like. Reclaim Hosting is just one piece to the larger puzzle of how we allow people to easily feed their digital content back into a space they own and control. Making it easy for educators and students to get that space and start experimenting in it is an obvious first step, but over the next year we hope to play a part in building Reclaim Your Domain to provide a framework that allows people to take ownership and control of their digital identity. Anyone who read my previous post might think I had given up on the rhetoric of "Reclaiming" and that couldn't be further from the truth. Having a space to archive the distributed work is important and making it easy both to get that space and to aggregate the work you do in other spaces is important. I wouldn't partner with Jim to make this happen if I didn't think so, and I'm excited about all the possibilities this could afford us as a community. Let's build this together.