Weeknote 38/2018

This week I’ve been:

Next week, I’m working three days for Moodle (Mon-Weds) and onboarding a new member to the MoodleNet team. I’m then planning to head up a mountain.

The fate of private social networks

I knew this had been coming for the last few years, really, but today I discovered that Path, the social network I use with my family, is shutting down. We’ve been using it since 2010 to share photos of our children growing up, and to keep each other up-to-date with family life.

Last year, I started paying for Path, as a small effort towards making it sustainable. Obviously not enough people were doing so. To be honest, the value proposition for paid versus free accounts wasn’t exactly awesome. After all, there’s only so many sticker packs you can use!

So my family will be looking for something that replaces Path. This turns out to be something that’s both of personal and professional interest to me at the moment, as I’m leading the MoodleNet project.

My first port of call when I’m looking for an alternative to some software is alternativeto.net. Their crowdsourced list of apps that could replace Path doesn’t quite do the job, unfortunately. I’ve been trying to think about why that is, so fired up Google Slides and created image at the top of this post. You can remix it if you want.

My point here is to show that there’s many kinds of social interactions. I’m focusing on what my family uses, so haven’t put MoodleNet on there, but if I had, I think we’d be looking at it being right in the middle. The small grey arrows show the direction of travel I think that each app is, or has been, on.

It would be easy to look at this and conclude that we’re living in a world where everything’s moving to being more synchronous and public, but I’m not sure that’s true. Ideally, I reckon we want the option to communicate with one another in all four quadrants here.

What do you think? Is there anything out there which would replace Path? We’ve been trying out a private Google+ community, but it’s somehow not as… fun.


Update: after a quick dalliance with Google+ we’re currently trying out Vero.

Weeknote 37/2018

This week I’ve been:

Next week, I’m working from home all day Monday and Tuesday morning, then I’m off to London for a mini sprint on the front-end development of MoodleNet with Mayel de Borniol and Outlandish.

 

Weeknote 36/2018

This week I’ve been:

Next week, I’m working from home on Monday, then in Manchester for the ALT conference from Tuesday to Thursday.


Image from p.118 of the excellent Life in Code by Ellen Ullman

Weeknote 35/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Working on the MoodleNet project (Mon-Weds):
    • Screening more applicants for the MoodleNet backend developer (Elixir) position.
    • Checking in with Outlandish about UX and front end development.
    • Meeting with Kaye Cheung about branding and the @moodlenet Twitter account.
    • Planning and booking travel/accommodation for an upcoming mini-sprint around front end development with Outlandish in London.
    • Defining sprints up to MVP release.
    • Configuring our GitLab to work as we want it to. We had initially set up sprints as milestones, but are reconfiguring to make it more legible to the community.
    • Creating the first draft of a quarterly team review report which I’ll be finishing off next week.
    • Publicising the first ‘office hours’ for MoodleNet next Thursday. Further details on the blog.
  • Collaborating with my We Are Open colleagues on some upcoming work (Thurs).
  • Joining my family in Devon at the in-laws.
  • Deleting my account on social.coop and reverting to an old account elsewhere on Mastodon.

Next week I’m back working from home working on MoodleNet and participating remotely in a thinkathon for London CLC.

Weeknotes 32, 33, and 34/2018

We’re back! After a wonderful two-week family inter-railing adventure around Europe taking in Barcelona, Lyon, Zurich, Ljubljana, Salzburg, and Stuttgart, we arrived back home just before midnight on Tuesday.

Our favourite place? Slovenia (Ljubljana and Lake Bled). Lyon was a close second, and Barcelona third. Salzburg was good, but we’ll not be hurrying back to Zurich or Stuttgart.

Since being back, I’ve recorded Episode 107 of the TIDE podcast with Dai Barnes, and worked from Wednesday to Friday on the MoodleNet project. That’s included:

  • Catching up with email, etc.
  • Performing a sprint retrospective and reviewing Mayel’s work around specifying the initial data models.
  • Screening applicants for the MoodleNet backend developer (Elixir) position. From 70+ applications we’re planning to have informal conversations with nine, and have talked to two candidates so far.
  • Setting up a server to get started with forking the Pleroma code base.
  • Participating in the internal branding sprint.
  • Meeting with Garnet Berry about presenting at the ALT conference next month.
  • Moving away from Trello in favour of GitLab issues, Changemap, and Teamwork.com, as documented in this blog post.
  • Talking with Mary Cooch about taking over the @moodlenet Twitter account and sunsetting the existing moodle.net site while sunrising the new one. Much more on that to come.

Next week I’m working Monday to Wednesday on MoodleNet, then a half day on Thursday before joining my family in Devon for a long weekend at the in-laws.

Weeknote 31/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #314 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. This one was called ‘Final Holiday Countdown 🏁 ⏲️ 🏖️ ’. Thanks to those who back me via Patreon plus those who continue their support via Gumroad!
  • Playing You’ve Got Crabs! as a family for the first time, which was hilarious. It’s by the same people as Exploding Kittens.
  • Recording, editing and releasing Episode 106 of the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast with my co-host Dai Barnes. We entitled this episode ‘Keeping track of all the things’ and discussed MoodleNet milestones, Seth Godin’s approach to learning, assassination markets on the blockchain, keeping track of articles you want to read, and more!
  • Working on the MoodleNet project:
    • Finishing off UX Milestone 2 with Outlandish, which proved interesting after Matt, their Head of UX, went off on paternity leave. This was expected, however, and Rob another UX guy, stepped in seamlessly.
    • Responding to community feedback on the screencasts, and collating it on our Changemap.
    • Starting to put together a job landscape for a back-end developer.
    • Meeting briefly with Steve Watt to discuss MoodleNet sustainability.
    • Testing out the new Jira interface. It’s fine, but we’ve decided to go with GitLab issues as it’s less confusing for our purposes.
    • Meeting with Michael Shaw, Director of Tes Resources about potential ways we can integrate.
    • Submitting our MozFest proposal.
  •  Curating interesting things I came across on the Thought Shrapnel blog during the last few days of July. I’m taking a holiday during August, so only a few links to share:

Next week, I’m wrapping things up on Monday, and then heading off on holiday from Tuesday for two weeks. We’re interrailing and taking in Barcelona, Lyon, Zurich, Ljubljana, Salzburg, Munich, and Stuttgart!


Image by Matt Artz used under the terms of the Unsplash license

Weeknote 30/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #313 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. This one was called ‘Mootivation’. Thanks to those who back me via Patreon plus those who continue their support via Gumroad!
  • Hot. This week, it’s been around 30°C at times in the North East of England where I live. That’s pretty much unheard of, and given our bedroom is in the loft conversion, I haven’t been sleeping that well. I also got a bit sunburned watching my son at a football tournament all day last Sunday.
  • Working on the MoodleNet project:
    • Finishing off a sprint which was mainly focused on figuring out MoodleNet integration with Moodle Core. There’s still work to be done, but you can see Mayel’s working document here.
    • Collaborating with Outlandish on UX Milestone 2. This has taken up most of my time this week, with daily stand-ups and feedback as to how things should flow from the user’s point of view. We’ll be recording a couple of screencasts next week to show the community.
    • Meeting with Pat Lockley who has project called Solvonauts which searches OER repositories.
    • Writing up an idea around emoji triplets for persistent identity in decentralised networks like MoodleNet.
    • Reflecting on what the MountainMoot organisers do well and what we can learn from them. Also, the notes from the MoodleNet session I ran there are linked from this post.
    • Mocking up what Open Badges in MoodleNet might look like. You can preview them here.
    • Meeting with our Data Protection Officer to discuss what seems like, on the surface, a simple thing to do: add an email address to our draft Code of Conduct. However, there are layers of complexity in decentralised networks — which I think we’ve resolved!
    • Reviewed our use of Changemap (private beta) for community suggestions.
    • Deciding to move from Trello to GitLab issues for planning within the MoodleNet team starting with the sprint that begins on 7th August (i.e. Mayel’s figuring it out while I’m on holiday!)
  • Recording, editing and releasing Episode 105 of the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast with my co-host Dai Barnes. We entitled this episode ‘I dunno… Idaho?’ and discussed emoji triplets, Don Norman’s call for more human-centred technologies, Microsoft OneNote integration with Google Classroom, living in public, and more!
  • Curating interesting things I came across on the Thought Shrapnel blog. This week I collected some quotations and commented on the following:
  • Continuing my streak learning Spanish on on Duolingo. I’m now up to 27 days!
  • Writing posts on my Discours.es blog about things that, for one reason or another, didn’t seem to fit elsewhere:
  • Putting together an introductory guide to Open Badges for a client with other members of our co-op. I’m looking forward to sharing it once complete!

Next week is the last before our family holiday: a European adventure around Europe via plane, train, and automobile! I’m going to be at home working on MoodleNet and some consultancy stuff.


Image by Henry Be released under the Unsplash license

Weeknote 29/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #312 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. This one was called ‘If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Thanks to those who back me via Patreon plus those who continue their support via Gumroad!
  • Working on the MoodleNet project:
    • Travelling – I’ve been in Helena, Montana (USA) at the MountainMoot. There’s lots to learn from this ‘unofficial’ moot in terms of engagement and creating a great vibe. The photo accompanying this post is of Carroll College which is where the moot was held with the Montana mounts in the distance.
    • Running a session at the MountainMoot. The attendance wasn’t high, as you’d expect from an early-stage innovation project up against sessions with more tangible outcomes, but there were some great discussions.
    • Working with Outlandish on the second UX milestone. This one is a bit more tricky as we didn’t discuss many of the features from this milestone at the Design Sprint. Check out our meeting notes from this week’s call. We also came up with the user flow for the screencast demo we’ll produce at the end of this sprint.
    • Updating the MoodleNet white paper to v0.25. This was mainly small tweaks to reflect changes in scope and focus to the project over the last few months.
    • Drafting a proposal for the Mozilla Festival on the theme of ‘decentralisation’. You can see that here.
    • Thinking through an idea around emoji triplets for visually communicating identity when users can change both their username and avatar on a decentralised platform.
    • Reviewing Mayel’s draft document explaining how MoodleNet will integrate with Moodle Core.
  • Curating interesting things I came across on the Thought Shrapnel blog. This week I collected some quotations and commented on the following:
  • Writing posts on my Discours.es blog about things that, for one reason or another, didn’t seem to fit elsewhere:

Next week, I’m going to be at home working on MoodleNet, and in particular UX milestone 2.

How emoji triplets could help with trust and identity on decentralised social networks

Inspired by what3words, I want to share an idea that solves some problems I’ve been thinking about in the context of MoodleNet:

  1. With services that allow users to change usernames and avatars an infinite number of times, how do you know who you’re really talking to?
  2. On decentralised social networks such as Mastodon, users on different instances can have the same username. This is confusing when trying to @ mention someone.

If what3words can describe everywhere on the globe using three words, then we can describe all users of a social network using three emojis.

As I’ve explained before, LessPass (a deterministic password generator) uses emoji triplets to simultaneously obfuscate your password while providing a check that you’ve entered it correctly.

LessPass

In addition, as my colleague Mayel pointed out when I shared the idea with him, the first emoji of the triplet could indicate which instance you’re on.

Mastodon profile

As you can see above, I’ve actually already added three emojis next to my username on both Twitter and Mastodon. I think it serves as a really nice, quick, visual indication that you’re dealing with the person you expect.

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