I feel a bit behind the curve in writing about Reclaim Open, but I suppose it’s better late than never. We’re still technically in June, meaning the in-person event was just earlier this month, and we still have the online recap coming throughout the month of July, so perhaps my tardiness may be forgiven!
Reclaim Open is Reclaim Hosting’s 4th biennial conference following Domains17, Domains19, and OERxDomains21. It can be easy to compare each conference to those preceding it, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned while hosting these through the years, it’s that each event captures a moment in time and creates a space for connection– however it may be needed or defined in that moment by each participant– and they’re all uniquely special. In some ways these conferences snowball and build over time; we take the lessons that we learn from one and embed them into the next one. In other ways, each conference is its own entity where a distinctive group of folks will converge, share ideas and inspire, and then part ways again. The conversations are always different, but the goal (at least for me when planning) is always the same: to create a space where folks feel comfortable to share, challenge, and build alongside each other.
OERxDomains21 came at a time during covid where connection and professional support felt more difficult to come by. That event was collaborative, powerful, and pushed boundaries – all while being completely online. Domains 17 & 19 were equally powerful, and reinforced art & creativity by taking place in various museum hotels (penguins & tv stack installations included).
While there were no penguins this go around, Reclaim Open was no different in how it carved out space for a community to join forces. In many ways, this conference felt like a reunion, celebration, and call to action all in one. The conference themes were perfect for this:
In April 1993, Tim Berners Lee open sourced the World Wide Web, and the ensuing decades of internet technologies bears the mark of that historic moment. Thirty years later, open source still remains central to building and providing an open web. For our 4th biennial conference, Reclaim Hosting plans to not only celebrate the history of the open web, but take stock of the present moment while exploring the future of Open. To this end we established 3 distinct, though always related, tracks wherein we asked folks to share their work around the past, present, and future of the open web. It was so fun to head back where it all began, and we had a blast welcoming web historians, creative tinkerers, digital humanists, instructional technologists, project admins, and open source advocates to Fredericksburg, Virginia on June 5-7, 2023.Excerpt on reclaimopen.com
The past, the present, the future: going back to where it all began in Fredericksburg, VA and sharing stories with old and new friends; a celebration of how far we’ve come, marking Reclaim’s 10th year in business and the anniversary of the open web; dreaming up where we want to be and how the future of the web will shape that path.
Each time we dream up, plan for, and host an event like this, I always re-learn just how much work goes into hosting a conference and I have so much respect and admiration for folks that do this more regularly. Coordination for the logistics alone are no joke, and we added a bit of complexity this year by recording sessions, live-streaming and experimenting with Hybrid, and producing an on-the-fly documentary. These extra elements would not have been possible without the amazing Dream Team, and it was such an honor to work alongside them these past few weeks/months (years!) to make it happen.
In no particular order, here’s a list of some of my Reclaim Open highlights:
The Reclaim team dinner after the event where we talked about the future of green web hosting, inspired by Bryan Alexander‘s keynote, What might the web become in its next generation?
Unveiling the documentary, and hearing the impromptu, round-robin experiences from conference goers at the end of day 3.
Checking out Reclaim Arcade. Still so in awe with how that space has transformed, and that evening was a blast!
The way that Rajiv Jhangiani used storytelling and visual/audio aids in his keynote, Accept all cookies and continue: The many presents of the web.
I was really interested in juxtaposing elements of “old” with our techy, future-driven web conference as a way of thinking about how the past and future can intersect. It was fun to loosely play with this using color on the website, which was black & white until the week of the conference.
I also really enjoyed creating the conference programs, which ended up sitting somewhere between a newspaper and a zine.
The programs were created using Newspaper Club and their provided Canva template for the Digital Mini Magazine. I really love how these came together in the end, along with the other stickers and t-shirts we had on hand to showcase Bryan Mathers‘ fantastic artwork:
And because I’m always curious what folks use for other conferences… the name tags were created and printed using Conference Badge and the lanyards were purchased in bulk on Amazon. Stickers were printed through Sticker Mule, which we’ve used for years, and our collection of Reclaim Open t-shirts were designed and printed through Spreadshop on shop.reclaimhosting.com.
Back to the list of highlights– I loved the casual nature of the Unconference. The slower pace on day 1 felt like a great way to kick off the event.
Hanging in downtown Fredericksburg again and eating all the Benny’s pizza I could manage.
The power of A.I. Levine
And last, but certainly not least, I really loved witnessing other Reclaimers run the show. This was a true team effort and I’m so glad to have been a part of it.