Shortfalls of DoOO for digital scholarship -?

There is much info out there about the value and uses of DoOO. I am interested in what DoOO is NOT good at (within its scope), in particular as relates to Digital Scholarship projects. What has emerged as the usual pitfalls for users of university institutional memberships? Are there (unexpected) areas we should be aware of that DoOO does not serve?

I think DoOO falls short when it is trying to replace the LMS or it is a project that doesn’t have people on the ground at a given institution to support it. The successes I have seen have been grounded in a group trying to build a community around this as a teaching and learning tool platform. That said, there are also the cases were it scratches a very specific itch for people, namely Omeka hosting for an archive project, a one-off WordPress install, etc. If you have enough of those around campus it may be valuable without any coherent community, but then there may not be any real reason to get DoOO, might as well push folks to shared hosting.

But I think a mistake for anyone doing this would be to get a DoOO package and hope folks will come and use it. It’s value needs to be modeled and demonstrated, and without a staff to support folks along the way with a clear communal sense of its value things will probably end bad.


I was speaking with a student at Davidson recently who was looking to use his domain more for productivity tools rather than publishing tools. Things like notetaking applications, document storage, and stuff like that. As we looked at what was out there it seemed like the applications that were compatible with DoOO as it’s currently instantiated server the direct purpose of web-based publishing. There are outliers there for sure but most of the applications we found would work better for personal productivity required one to run their own server and different architectures. I ended up recommending he look into Sandstorm as an option for that kind of stuff as their focus is much less on personal publishing rather allowing folks to run personal applications from a hosted space that seemed to fit that need better. That’s more of a technical limitation of DoOO rather than a philosophical one but still one that comes to mind for me.

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Adding a link to Maha’s post here (and definitely read the comments) as I think it also gets at some of the questions and potential shortcomings of DoOO particularly around ideas of ownership and cost

Hoping we can have a deeper conversation regarding that aspect of DoOO in the coming months.


I agree with Jim, one of the biggest limiting factors is boots on the ground that have the vision and understanding the student ownership of their own learning process is at the core. You really need someone to on the ground to light the path and show others that this big scare stack of technology is really not scary at all.

DoOO in its current incarnation has a very low floor, high ceiling and wide walls, but with out an initial guide, the floor may not seem low enough to get traction. Once it gets traction at an institution, become more about imagination and applying the lessons learned in more and different ways.

To the challenge of replacing the LMS, I also agree with that. The LMS was a first attempt to make the promises of web technology look and function like the traditional classroom. It created boxes to try to compartmentalize the existing functions and methods of the physical classroom. The way I see DoOO functioning though is by rethinking and reimagining how to use web technology for teaching and learning effectively in its own right.

I think there is value in the approach of using DoOO in a capacity that emulates the LMS and Traditional Classroom as a way to open people up to the concepts by presenting it in a way that is familiar to them but encourages the users to ask questions, challenge their own preconceived notions of what online education really is and then help them see that they have the tools they need to make their vision happen.

An obstacle I see in this regard is the paralysis of choices that the current implementation provides out of the gate. It feels like streamlining the ‘in’ and then revealing the options as the user grows may have some value. What i’ve seen quite often is, users find their way into what they need/want to do initially and then, that becomes the path they tend to follow. That initial exploration phase takes quite a while to return to and really investigate the wealth of tools available to them.

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My institution has only recently started deploying and supporting our DoOO initiative, so my observations are unavoidably naive. We’re also feeling a bit like kids in a candy store at the moment, so I’ve not reflected much on aspects of our digital scholarship that may be underserved.

That stated, I can think of a couple things to contribute to the discussion. First, I have some concerns about the long-term institutional preservation of the projects and data generated as faculty and student DoOO-based endeavors. I’m not sure, from an institutional memory stance, how much we can presently commit to curating the scholarly work that DoOO enables. I’m not even sure what sorts of tools might be available at the institutional level to allow us to do it. I’m reminded of my long-ago /~yourname (aka tilde sites) web area provided to me. While I was able to take that work with me with ftp and floppy disks, I am nearly certain that there was no institutional archival policy in place for all that student work, and I think it’s kinda sad. Speaking as a technologist and a librarian, my hope is that DoOO can factor nicely into our institutional repository, and that student and faculty DoOO-based work undertaken now can, somehow, inform the scholarship of 100 years from now, like our analog archives.

Another thing that I’m trying to think through concerns the disciplinary alignments of the tools presented in the cpanel. I’m slowly working through everything there but I’m sensitive to its skewing toward the arts and humanities. The social sciences don’t appear to make out as well, and still fewer returns for the sciences. I recognize that this statement may be loaded and may rile some folks – so I’m happy to retract it if proven wrong, or once I’ve had more time to really look through, install, and evaluate from a pedagogical orientation, all that cpanel offers.

My final qualification is to point out that cpanel shortcomings are not entirely DoOO shortcomings. Take for instance a scholarly desire to do some web mapping stuff. While PostgreSQL/PostGIS aren’t listed on cpanel, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t install them through the shell (theoretically speaking; I haven’t tried this yet but plan to do it). So yeah, while I noted a couple areas of concern above, I also think that the full utility and power of DoOO is sometimes understated, too.

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That’s a good point about cPanel (or also Installatron) having a functional tilt towards humanities, @floatingtim. It’s making me think…

The ethos here is so responsive, improvisational, and experimental that I’d assume @jimgroom, @timmmmyboy, and @laurenhanks are down for anything anyone in any discipline could dream up. But it can be so difficult to encourage users to actually take advantage of that sort of potential if it’s not built into the UI where they can try themselves.

My background is humanities/qualitative, and so most of what-all I’ve done on the web has fit into that paradigm. After I left academia, I had opportunities to work alongside folks in STEM settings. Since I signed up with Reclaim, I’ve occasionally wondered whether the tools represented here would/could foster some of the research or outreach projects I saw or heard about. Or, from another angle, would/could serve me in the more quant/data work I’ve been doing professionally in the last couple years.

When I last looked, nothing in Installatron seemed obscure (because way over into the STEM side) or tantalizing (because close to what I’m doing now in my job). Is that because everything there is very close to what I’m most familiar with? I’ll have to take another look. Maybe there is (for example) a way to set up an R Shiny instance. :sunny:

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Hi @floatingtim – Just wondering if you’ve tried that PostgreSQL/PostGIS installation yet. I’m haven’t signed up for Reclaim Hosting yet, but space to do PostgreSQL/PostGIS would be my #1 use for it. I would love to hear a story about either success or failure!

This post makes it sound as if PostgreSQL comes standard in cPanel, but I haven’t seen that mentioned anywhere else.


I can’t speak for @floatingtim but as one of the co-founders I can speak to what is possible in Reclaim Hosting. There is limited support for PostgreSQL in cPanel, though it’s not something we’ve traditionally had on by default (though I suppose that’s a policy we could change if there were demand for it over MySQL). However in looking at the install directions for PostGIS it seems to require its own server. I’m not sure something like that would be replicable in a shared hosting environment like ours.

Hi @ebetts,

I have not yet done anything with PostgreSQL/PostGIS on a Reclaim Hosting site. Mostly because I’m still working through all the other fun things I have to explore (like GRAV and Known, for instance).

Another reason, I’ll confess, is that I’m not yet fluent with CentOS, Yum, etc., and I’m reluctant to stray too far from the cpanel until I have more confidence I’m not going to break something badly. I am more familiar with Debian, and there I can more often get out of trouble myself.

I very much want to experiment with geospatial-related assignments and especially ways of incorporating web-based mapping into undergraduate courses. To echo @timmmmyboy - I think the PostGIS requirements of PostgreSQL may be problematic. One thought I’ve had is to rely upon a single external, web-accessible PostGIS database that would live on another service, but have students point to it with their own DoOO sites. Then, work through the Site Publisher to explore some of the numerous JavaScript frameworks for GIS, like Leaflet.js, to build visualizations for the web. I can imagine a lot of assignments or undergraduate research projects that could do cool stuff that way.

Can I check in with you in a couple of months and we can share progress?

One issue is archiving faculty scholarship. Producing faculty digital scholarship on a DOOO site instead of a library site means intentional coordination between the library and faculty to archive faculty research.

There was a Physics or Math prof at my institution that wanted to use his domain for something (maybe some python install of some kind?) and he couldn’t do it. Needed an AWS server.

Hi @floatingtim, This is a question that has popped up for us again, and I wonder if you ended up going ahead and checking to see if PostGIS works with Reclaim? I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had!

I did not explore PostGIS further in cPanel, based on what was learned from @timmmmyboy about PostgreSQL limitations. I got things working on an inexpensive Digital Ocean droplet for the project I was supporting. I’m happy to connect directly and find my old notes if that’s helpful. Sorry for the slow response.