Initial Thoughts About #ReclaimYourDomain

Obligatory spider web photo, because Jim and Audrey did too!

The ability for me to own, point it at a server, host a website and a blog has been an critical part of my online world and professional career for over 12 years now. My blog goes back to June of 2007, but I have had a site and portfolio up there since around 2000. Having control over my domain has enabled me to store years of my writing, research and projects in a central location that I have control over, allowing me to land jobs, contracts or evolve into entirely new domains that have expanded my audience in ways I never imagined, like with API Evangelist.

Anytime I can teach this approach to someone else and empower them to own their own domain, I’ve jumped at the chance, resulting in numerous individuals who have their own thriving domains--including my girlfriend Audrey Watters with her blog Hack Education. Understanding what is necessary to purchase, own and manage your domain, servers, sites, applications and other portions of our digital lives is something everyone should do! But be careful, you just might change the world, and make a significant impact like Audrey (@audrewyatters) has.

Last weekend while at MIT, I had a chance to work on a project that takes this concept of owning your domain and looks to make it an educational resource anyone can take advantage of. I ended up at the MIT Media Lab after being summoned for an open learning hackathon by MIT and Phillip Schmidt (@schmidtphi) of P2PU.  During the event I had the pleasure of plotting and scheming with infamous technology educator Jim Groom (@jimgroom) and education rabble rouser Audrey Watters on an idea Jim brought with him, that was born out of the University of Mary Washington Domain of One's Own Project.

After the hackathon was kicked off properly Friday afternoon, Jim and I spent the afternoon of whiteboarding, followed up by a quality evening of beer drinking, in which Jim, Audrey and I hatched a plan we called #ReclaimYourDomain, which would act a hub to allow anyone to easily learn about taking control over their domain, complete with the tools for actually delivering on the promise.

#ReclaimYourDomain Hub

Allowing users to take control of their domain will start at a centralized hub where anyone can begin learning about the nuts and bolts of domain ownership, but also find a wizard that will walk them through the sometimes confusing process. The #ReclaimYourDomain hub is an open source platform that could be launched by a teacher or department within a school, career training center, or any other institution that would like to help individuals own their own domain, and be the central support for them until they could operate completely on their own.

Right now the #ReclaimYourDomain Hub will run as stand-alone service at, but eventually it will be available for anyone to deploy on any server. The #ReclaimYourDomain Hub will start with a simple home and about page, but focus on a simple wizard that will walk an individual through purchasing and setting up their own online domain.

#ReclaimYourDomain Wizard

The focal point of#ReclaimYourDomain is a simple, six step wizard that will walk any user through owning their own domain: 

  1. Claim Your Domain - Allow users to select, purchase and setup domain
  2. Resources - Select from common resources such as a blog
  3. Location - Where resources like a blog will be located using services like Github, Dropbox or Amazon S3 or EC2
  4. Details - Title, summary, photo and a full bio of the domain owner
  5. Contact - Provide contact information for the domain user that visitors can use to contact them
  6. Hello World - Something to kick off the launch of a domain like writing the first blog

When done running the #ReclaimYourDomain wizard, the service will purchase a top level domain, setup a basic profile site for the user and configure the resources (like a blog), chosen during the wizard. Right now the only resource #ReclaimYourDomain will offer is a blog, but will deliver in other resource areas in the future. To start I'd like to see several definitions of what a blog is:

  • Blog @ Local Server with Wordpress
  • Blog @ AWS EC2 Linux + Amazon RDS + Linux with Wordpress
  • Blog @ Github Pages with Jekyll
  • Blog @ Dropbox with Jekyll
  • Blog @ Amazon S3 with Jekyll

The goal is to successfully setup a domain, landing page and blog for a user, but the mission is to educate the user about the process ,different resources, location configurations by providing a series of learning objects and migration paths which will allow users to make educated decisions about which options are best for them. If you want to understand more about why this is important read Audrey's Reclaim Your Domain: A #ReclaimOpen Hackathon Project and Jim's Reclaim Open Learning, located at their domain blogs.

Learning Objects

With digital literacy the mission, #ReclaimYourDomain will provide a series of structured learning objects that will educate users at every step of the setup, configuration and management of their domain.

Learning objects will be available via a centralized help center, while also being linked individually throughout the domain setup wizard and management process so users can access whenever needed, at just the right moment.

As Audrey says, the goal of #RelcaimYourDomain is not just to provide an easy button for buying a domain and setting up a blog, it is to actually educate users about the process, equipping them with essential web literacy skills along the way.


Each #ReclaimYourDomain user will be given their own domain, complete with a static home, about and contact pages. The domain will always provide a user with a single landing page that will represent their online persona. A #ReclaimYourDomain domain site will provide users with two key services:

Sir Edmund Hilary - Mount Cook

  • Resources - The ability to add different resources like a blog, and configure what application is used and where the blog is hosted within their domain
  • Links - A tool for adding titles and urls that link to existing services a user might depend on like Flickr, Facebook and LinkedIn--services that are unlikely to ever be hosted as a local resource

#ReclaimYourDomain is designed to educate users about all the services we depend on, while providing the knowledge and tools to incrementally take control over their:

  • Online Domain
  • Critical Services
  • Personal Data

The process of educating average Internet users about taking control of their worlds in these three essential areas is no easy task, it will be a process that will never fully be complete--requiring a constant flow of open educational resources to empower domain owners about our ever changing digital worlds.


Each #ReclaimYourDomain site will have a dashboard allowing each individual to manage their details, contact information, resources and links. The dashboard will be tighlty coupled with the help center, which will provide access to all learning objects, but also provide meaningful analytics that will help users understand the activity that occurs within their domain.


Each #ReclaimYourDomain site will also have a programmatic layer allowing discovery of profile detail, resources and links. The #ReclaimYourDomain user domain site will automatically generate not just an HTML home page, but an XML and JSON version providing a programmatic directory for accessing domain details, links and valuable resources like your blog RSS or Twitter accounts.

Domain Modules

#ReclaimYourDomain will initially employ a handful of modules, but eventually could provide access to a robust library of common or niche components. While the goal is to empower users to set up application within their domain, the platform will easily support common cloud services like Tumblr, Flickr, Evernote and others--with the intention of educating users about the pros and cons of each service, with clear migration paths between resource services and various locations.

Each domain module will come complete with setup, management, migration and even backup, storage and syndication options allowing each module to work independently while providing domain owners with the largest amount of control.  

All domain modules will have their own learning objects to support educating users about all the parts and pieces of domain literacy, exposing the technology, business and political layers each resource and its underlying services possess.  

Next Steps

Currently Jim, Audrey and I have a mocked up version of #ReclaimYourDomain Hub and a #ReclaimYourDomain domain site.  All the buttons and lnks work, so make sure and click around to see it in action.  I need to gather my thoughts from the project, then I will be publishing all #ReclaimYourDomain code and a framework for planning via Github.

#ReclaimYourDomain is not just about setting up a domain and blog. It is much more than that. It is meant to be a hands on, digital literacy platform to teach anyone about reclaiming, owning and managing their online domain.

Giving someone the ability to own their domain can look as simple as having a place to put your thoughts via a blog, but could also evolve into an aggregate location to store and link all of a peron's projects, allowing them to be used as part of your online CV and potentially a digital badge or credential system. The possibilities are really endless. However to achieve this vision, we have to educate people about the building blocks of a domain, the importance of taking control over essential services within your domain, and asserting ownership over as much of our personal data as we possibly can, through this enlightening process.

Stay tuned for more on #ReclaimYourDomain, and if you’d like to get involved feel free to contact me directly or stay tuned and I’ll have the Github project up shortly.