Rethinking DIY

It’s not really doing it myself, in the first place. I paid Bluehost for service, and they offered Moodle 2.0 through their Simple Scripts software. I wanted Moodle 2.2, so I tried to download it and install, but I couldn’t get it to work, so I used the Moodle 2.0.

I ran my summer class in it. 43 students, weekly forum posts, quizzes, Messages – you know the routine.

Then my students and I started getting:

As I was contacting support, the site went down for over an hour. Support told me one of their servers had crashed, and they had to reset the database. This was Sunday before the last week of class. The database errors became more frequent.

Support contact after that was useless. They frequently disconnected in the middle of a chat, and no one could refer back to my previous contact. The CPU throttling was off the chart – I didn’t know why and neither did they. On Tuesday, one support person said they’d narrowed it to a single student in New Mexico. That student submitted their final early and didn’t log in again, but the problem continued. The only other thing running on my entire account were two WordPress blogs, neither of which were active.

We got through the end of the class without the whole site going down or Bluehost shutting it down, although the only support emails I got told me to do things that I (and they) had already done (check database, repair database, optimize database), and update all scripts (done).

I can’t fix this. I would need to know a ton about MySQL, php programming, cron jobs and a bunch of other stuff (my major is in History, people). I’m reliant on my hosting company.

I used to pay for a Moodle host, but their prices went above $500 a year and I couldn’t afford it for over 200 students. We have an account at the college through Moodlerooms, and I’ll use that. But when I was running it, I could customize the code, set the defaults I wanted, and administer the whole thing myself. That’s been great, but I can’t DIY at this level.

So at the same time I’ve been trying to reclaim my work from various sites run by other people (Flickr, Twitter) a la D’Arcy Norman. But of course I put all this in my WordPress blog, which is on a server that’s hosted by Lunarpages. Is that really DIY? I don’t want to run my own server out of my house (and I think my ISP might be unhappy if I did anyway) – I’m happy to celebrate sys admins but I don’t really want to be one.

And by the way, the whole Pedagogy First! blog for the POT certificate class is on the same Bluehost account…

So what happens to those of us in the middle? Who aren’t programmers but like to run and manage our own stuff? To what extent is it better to be at the mercy of the hosting company than at the mercy of Flickr?



3 thoughts on “Rethinking DIY

  1. What seems most important to me, outside of being your own admin or not, is great an environemnt where the applications all allow students to easily export and take their data with them. It is not so much every professor runs their own blog, or every student has their own domain, but rather that everyone has the opportunity to play with, understand and conceptualize what is happening when you maintain your won work, and what are the limits. The conceptual ideas of DIY, and owning and maintaining is kind of what we teach at college and university.


    1. That should indeed be what is most important, but the systems involved, and where they are housed, seem to be a restraining force. I can take my data with me on a hard drive, but to share it on the web seems to create a dependence that undermines the concepts. I can have my own WP blog, and export, but to display it again means it needs to be on another WP blog, so I need hosting. You at UMW are creating a better system by having a supported system where students can build their own stuff.

      So is the deal here that I’ve just hit the limit?


  2. Argh, Lisa, that sounds so frustrating! I used to have b2evo that I hosted in my own webspace and also Moodle, but I got so tired by keeping the installs up to date, dealing with spam, hackers, not knowing enough about mysql to handle any problems that came up, that finally I decided I was okay with hosted services as long as they were ad-free for my students and had a good export option in a good standard file format (txt or XML or HTML). That’s where I’ve ended up, and I encourage my students to do the same – making sure that whatever hosted service they use, they can back their content up locally if it is something they do not see as purely ephemeral. This is a strategy that has worked well for me for some years. I wish that we had some hosting options through my school but, since we have nothing but Desire2Learn, I am very grateful for services like Blogger, PBworks for educators, etc., that have helped me keep on doing what I want/need to do for my classes. 🙂


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