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image depicting a 404 error web page

Checking the status for 5200 websites

OU Create

The University of Oklahoma offers all of its students, staff, and faculty their own web domains through the OU Create program. Anyone who wants to can sign up for a free subdomain (something like yourname.oucreate.com) or pay $12/year for a top-level domain (something like yourname.com). We provide 5GB of storage, tech support, and workshops to help people get started.

Once someone has registered for OU Create, they can use the Installatron tool that is built into the system to launch a one-click install of WordPress, Drupal, Omeka, and about 150 other web-apps. Right now our Installatron logs show a little more than 5200 active installations of WordPress, accounting for more than 80% of all the active registered domains. This does not include the inactive installations of people who have deleted their accounts or left the university and taken their websites with them.

I’ve been curious for a while as to the status of all of these sites. How many of these installations are actively being used? How many were used for a course at some point but have not been updated for a while? How many installations were set up but never really used? Are there any sites that are glitching, and do the users know about those glitches.

Checking Statuses

As an administrator, I can use the Installatron logs to see the URLs for all of the WordPress installations on a server. We have 5 servers, so I wrote a python script that will quickly pull that information from each server and compile it into one big list.

Next I wrote another python script (the link goes to GitHub gist and the code is also written below) that ingested that list of URLs, went to each URL, and returned the “HTTP status code” for the site. A status code of 200 means that the site loaded as expected. A status code of 301, meant that the URL redirected me to another page that then loaded. A status code of 400, 401, or 404 meant there was some sort of error loading the page. There were also pages where the system couldn’t find anything, so I told my script to record these as “no connection.”

import urllib3
import os
import csv

rows = []
#load the csv list of URLs to check
with open('urls.csv', 'r') as input:
    csv_reader = csv.reader(input)
    for blog in csv_reader:
        #check blogs in list for status
            #this get response will only retry a url 3 times, does not preload the site data, and records the status but does not load a redirect
            resp = http.request('GET', blog[0], retries=3, preload_content=False, redirect=False)
            line = [blog[0], resp.status]
        #if there's a domain not found error, it will be caught by this except
            line = [blog[0], "no connection"]

with open('urlStatus.csv', 'w') as output:
    csv_writer = csv.writer(output)

When I tested the script on a list of 50 URLs, it worked, but it took several minutes. When I tried to run it on all 5000+ URLs, it ran for over two hours with no end in site. Ultimately, I split the list up into five smaller lists, and ran the script simultaneously on each of the five lists. It worked, but I left it running overnight, so I’m not entirely sure how long it took. This morning I compiled the five output .csv files.

The end result was that 3800 sites loaded with no problem. An additional 1100 sites redirected once, and then loaded. I think many of these were simply making a minor edit to my URL by adding a “/” to the end, pushing me from something like mysite.oucreate.com/blog to mysite.oucreate.com/blog/.

Of the 23 sites that had 400 status errors, 9 were actually redirects, that the my system didn’t recognize for some reason. The other 14 have issues, and I’ll follow up with their owners to help them either fix the sites or delete them if they’re no longer using them.

The remaining 282 sites returned “no connection.” Many of these are smaller sites that were once installed as subdomains and subdirectories of main sites, but are no longer in use. Others are sites URLs that have expired. I’m going to follow up with the owners of these expired sites. Where they were intentionally allowed to expire, I can delete them from our system. Where they expired unintentionally and haven’t been noticed yet, we can see about re-registering them.

Once I get to a good place with these sites that returned 400 and 500, I’m going to run a third script to see how many of the sites that are working properly are in active use. If the site only has the Hello World blog post that comes with the software and the default theme, I will reach out to the owners to see if they want any help getting set up or want me to delete an unused account. After I get through all of these WordPress sites, I’ll go back to Installatron and run similar checks on the rest of the OU Create domains.

Reflections on Domains 19

Domains19 wrapped yesterday, and it was great. Lauren and the whole Reclaim Hosting team did a great job putting the conference together. As with any good conference, my favorite part was getting to catch up with friends and meet people who’s work I’ve been following for a while (I was particularly excited to meet Martin Hawksey and experience Bryan Ollendyke’s bombastic manifesto of a talk).

For Domains 17, Lauren and Adam Croom chose the 21C Hotel in Oklahoma City as the venue, at least in part because of the hotel’s distinctive indie art vibe. At this year’s conference in Durham, we met at another 21C Hotel, and the organizers brought even more attention to the ways in which art informs our understandings of media and technology. In addition to a gallery of mixed media art created by conference participants, we had screenings of three short films by producer sava saheli singh and writer Tim Maughan. Martin Hawksey presented a keynote talk about the technical realities of the facial recognition and social surveillance anticipated in movies like Minority Report. We were also treated to a brilliant closing keynote from Amy Collier that connected Tropicália music, the pedagogy of Paulo Freire, and the ongoing challenge to make sure that our work in ed tech does more to liberate our students than control them.

My main takeaway from the conference was a feeling that we are approaching the end of act one in the Domain of Ones Own narrative. Seven years after Jim Groom, Martha Burtis, and Tim Owens launched DoOO at UMW, a robust community of institutional actors and individuals have joined the journey. In our two conferences, we have shared a set of resources and information that support our ongoing day-to-day work and provide the foundation for schools now answering the call to action. In the coming weeks, I hope we will put together a centralized repository of tools, documentation, and tacit knowledge that will make these first steps even easier.

As the curtain drops on act one, I’m starting to look ahead to the trials that usually follow in act two. Several possible challenges were discussed at the conference. UMW’s Zach Whalen talked about the decline of readership and interest in blogging and asked us to consider what the domains project looks like with a reduced role for blogging. Jennifer Hill pointed to the challenges in getting students’ to care about data privacy and data ownership, when posting to social media is so easy and so culturally ubiquitous. We were constantly discussing, in the keynotes, artwork, and most of the presentations, the potential for our efforts in ed tech to harm rather than help the students and faculty. As I was leaving the conference, I read the tweet thread by Greg McVerry discussing how hard it is to get student buy-in on un-grading, anti-LMS open web usage, self-directed learning, and many of the other concepts that are incorporated into the pedagogies and practices we discussed at the conference.

If act one was the development of the technical, financial, and human resource models for building Domain of Ones Own projects, act two will I think focus on answering the existential challenge of integrating Domains into “normal” pedagogical practices. At OU, and I think across the Domains community, we have had success in promoting Domains as a tool for teaching multi-modal composition courses in English, Journalism, and other comms fields. Thousands of users across the community have built portfolio websites, though there is still work to be done in integrating these projects with departmental and college level curricula. We have seen success in supporting digital humanities projects and OER production. But I think we still have a long way to go in advocating for what Lee Skallerup Bessette and Zach Whalen were calling Digitally Intensive courses across the higher ed curriculum.

One answer to the existential question “Why Domains” is the promotion of digital fluency. Lee has been working on this for at least the last few years, and after the conference ended I got to talk to her a bit about how some of her work continues at UMW even while she has moved on to Georgetown. I love the parallel that she has drawn between writing intensive classes, which have been promoted at many of our schools for years as an effort to improve students communications skills even as they take non-comp focused courses, with digitally intensive courses. I do not think Domains can thrive or that digital literacy more broadly can thrive, if we are only teaching digital literacy skills in DS type courses. The idea of consciously constructed digitally intensive courses that slowly contribute to the students’ digital literacies throughout their matriculation, seems more realistic. Just as no student is likely to become a great writer after their comp101 course, no student is going to grok the problems with social media, the difficulties of web sec, the affordances and production of multi-modal communication, the promise of new media, and the challenges of surveillance capitalism after a single digital studies course.

I don’t think we can or should push for even the digitally intensive courses to be digitally exhaustive. We need to continue to respect the limited time, energy, and cognitive capacity of our students and limit tech integration to achieve intentional goals (both ours and more importantly the students’ goals). With that said, if there were digitally intensive courses throughout humanities, STEM, and professional curricula, we could address topics in appropriate course settings. Rather than trying to fit in a screed against FaceBook in my course on the Enlightenment, I could talk about the early days of rationalism and science and their rhetorical uses in bolstering laissez faire, “meritocratic” business models to the benefit of those with power and the exclusion of those without (I accidentally stumbled back into a screed against Silicon Valley, but you get the point). 

I think the Domains community is well positioned to answer this challenge. The participants at the conference represented a wide range from ed tech types to instructional designers to faculty and high level administration. We are each already doing what we can to design the best learning experiences we can for the classes we touch. I hope at Domains21 (consider this a public call to commit to putting it on Jim), I’d love to see more panels on how the integration of domains into curricula from activation as a freshman to graduation and beyond. I’d like to hear more about Lee’s projects at Georgetown that teach Domains as an elective to first year grad students and encourage them to use their domains as capstone projects when they complete their masters. I’d like to hear about BYU’s efforts to create a personal API and give students greater control of their educational data. I hope that Sundi and Daniel will continue to have great things to share form Davidson, an early leader in administrative buy-in for digital literacy across the campus. I think we will all face challenges in act two to justify our work and our costs, and we’ll still be working on those challenges at Domains21, but it will be a great opportunity to check in again with friends and hear about their journeys. 

#Domains 19 Day 2 Lunch Keynote with Amy Collier

For the Day 2 lunch keynote, Amy Collier talked to us about Ambitious futures for (digital) education: Perspectives from Tropicália.

Abstract: Brasil’s tropicália movement was a revolutionary expression of resistance to authoritarianism and nationalism through art, music, and theater. In this talk, we’ll travel back in time to 1960s Brasil, quaking under a military dictatorship, to explore how the key goals of the tropicalia movement connected to the educational/pedagogical approaches of Paulo Freire. We’ll tap into songs from tropicalia’s greatest musicians (e.g., Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, and Os Mutantes, etc.) while diving into Paulo Freire’s writings. As we explore those connections, Amy Collier (whose heart still lives in her home country of Brasil), will draw us back to the present moment and point to how the tropicalia movement can be an inspiration for our digital work in higher education. “Seja marginal, seja heroi.” (Helio Oiticica)

More information can be found here.

Amy put together a couple of pages to help with names and places in her talk:

I loved Amy’s presentation of the history of tropicália, the work of Paulo Freire, and how they can inform our current work in Ed Tech. Tropicália was about imagining new futures in the face of oppressive forces, and I think the audience was quick to see the applicability of this history to our own “time of intense polarization.” Amy called on us to embrace Tropicália’s work in inverting the colonizer and colonized relationship to recenter the students in education.

Amy began her story in Salvador, the epicenter of the Brazilian slave trade where as many as 5 million African people were brought into Brazil. Throughout the twentieth century, Salvador has been a center for African-Brazilian culture, and it was the birthplace of Gilberto Gil and Tropicália music.

Tropicália was a reaction to the Musica Popular Braileira, a nationalistic music that rejected American and European influences. Instead, Tropicália embraced anthroprophagia, the cannibalism and remixing of cultures with local inflection. It was in its conception a protest against the nationalistic music culture, the Brazilian bourgeois’s complacency, and the repressive Brazilian military regime.

In her presentation, Amy presented a close reading of the lyrics and music of early Tropicália, pointing out the allusions, satire, and direct challenges to the status quo. At a performance of “É proibido proibir” by Caetano Veloso in 1968, Veloso called out the youth of Brazil, the audience, for the lack of aesthetic taste and their political complacency. The crowd booed and turned their backs on the band, and the band turned their backs on the crowd.

In the March of 100,000, protesters called for culture from the bottom up and a rejection of “high culture” and “finished art.” Amy left unsaid the connections between these protests and our (the audience’s) similar shared beliefs in educational technology from the bottom up as opposed to expensive corporate enterprise solutions and surveillance capitalism in the classroom.

From her history of the Tropicalistas, Amy jumped forward to today, and how Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has praised parts of this militaristic regime and is seeking to erase the legacy of Paolo Freire and others that promoted rebelliousness under the old regimes.

Both Freire and Tropicália celebrated what Veloso called “the right to imagine an ambitious intervention in the future of the world, a right that immediately begins to be lived as a duty.” As educators, many of us have read Freire and worked to implement his visions through our work. We need to extend this work from traditional pedagogy to be an explicit goal of our work in ed tech, recognizing the potential for oppression in ed tech.

Amy’s talk was wonderfully interdisciplinary. Because of my own background, I think of it as a history of technology, but she tied together the cultural history of music with the history of education and educational technology. The audience really enjoyed hearing about a culture that most of us knew very little about, and we understood and I think all accepted her arguments for the connections and applicability of these histories to our current work.

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