Weeknote 02/2019

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #327 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. It was entitled, ‘Happy New Year’. It was, as ever, made possible via those who support me on Patreon.
  • Editing and releasing Episode 114 of the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast with my co-host Dai Barnes. We entitled this episode ‘Double Diamond’ and discussed Danish Geordies, Dai’s trip to India, Doug as an ‘active bystander’, going Google, rules for online sanity, confusing tech questions, and more!
  • Submitting TIDE to Spotify podcasts, where it’s now available for your listening pleasure.
  • Working on the MoodleNet project:
    • Making lots of decisions about what’s in or out of scope for various stages of testing.
    • Drafting the content for a new page to go at moodle.com/moodlenet, with the help of Júlia.
    • Answering interview questions to go on the Moodle blog next week.
    • Attending the IMS Open Badges call, which was a little too technical for me, to be honest.
    • Writing a script for an upcoming MoodleNet video for test users.
    • Deciding on the copy for transactional emails (‘verify’ and ‘reset password’)
    • Finalising the user sign-up form ready for translation into Spanish
  • Booking travel and accommodation for a We Are Open co-op meetup which will happen to coincide with the Friday of BETT in a couple of weeks’ time.
  • Backing up all my Flickr photos as they’re soon going to start deleting any over the most recent 1,000, unless you become a paying customer. I don’t really use it any more, so I just followed this simple guide to download them all.
  • Jumping on an incredible deal via Jack’s Flight Club (which I began subscribing to last month), meaning that our family will be flying to Boston in August for two weeks exploring the surrounding area.
  • Recording a microcast, available only to Patreon supporters:
  • Finishing off reading Chris Harman’s lengthy A People’s History of the World. Most sweeping histories are written by right-leaning historians, so this was a welcome counterbalance. I’ve started reading a newer translation of perhaps my favourite book of all time this week, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
  • Celebrating our daughter’s eighth birthday. She celebrated by playing football and going to a skate park. Time flies, it really does!

Next week, I’m again working five days for Moodle. This week it was to catch up after I took a day to go to a funeral before Christmas. Next week it’s so I can work three days the week after.


Photo of the churchyard at Mitford taken last Sunday by me.

Weeknote 01/2019

This is the first weeknote of the year, so there’s not much to update you on in terms of what I’ve been working on this week. I only got back to things on Thursday and Friday, and they were mostly getting-back-up-to-speed kind of days.

Instead, I’ll give a quick update of what’s been happening in my life since Weeknote 48/2018, posted at the end of November. Having December off social media is lovely and, although I’d miss it if I gave it up completely, made for a relaxed end of the year. As online social tools mature, it’s possible to plot them, as I did last year, on two spectra, giving four quadrants. What that means in practice for me is that I can press pause on contributing to spaces such as Twitter and Mastodon, but still interact with my work colleagues via Telegram and friends via Slack.

My last day at work ended up being Thursday 20th December, as I had a funeral to attend on the Friday followed by my 38th birthday on the Saturday. The run-up to Christmas ended up being quite dramatic, what with the hastily-arranged funeral, a birthday, and then — in the early hours of December 23rd — a fracas in the quiet neighbourhood in which we live. That particular episode involved me going out in my pyjamas, coat, and running trainers to try and stop a (drunk) man giving his (even more drunk) partner more than a broken nose. I tried to shelter her behind the wall to the rear of our house, and was thankful when my neighbour, who I subsequently found out had been a prison officer for 20 years, came to my assistance. Two police cars, an ambulance, and a witness statement later, and all that was left to do was scrub blood off my house at 2am…

After a very enjoyable Christmas Eve with friends in the morning and my parents in the afternoon, we spent Christmas Day as just the four of us. We had a great time and, because we weren’t supposed to be anywhere or do anything other than church in the morning, it was super-relaxed. Last year, because I’d only recently become pescetarian, I agreed to “not be awkward” and to eat meat on Christmas Day. This year, however, I had nut roast, meaning I went the entirety of 2018 without eating meat. It’s much easier to do these days, and veganism (which I’m not planning to switch to) is definitely going to be even more of a thing in 2019.

After Christmas, we spent almost a week travelling to, staying in, and travelling back from Devon. As we live in Northumberland, it’s almost the furthest journey you can make within England. Previously, we’ve made that journey within a day, but it’s no fun; you feel like you’re wasting a day spending 7.5 hours in the car. So, instead, we did what we’ve done in previous years, stopping in a hotel half-way down. This time, we stayed at Hilton East Midlands Airport both on the way down and the way back up, which was was exactly what we needed: it was cheap, there was hardly anyone staying there, and it had both a swimming pool and separate beds for the kids.

In Devon itself, we no longer stay with the in-laws, but instead reside in a curious timber-built two-level house built by friends of theirs. It gives us a lot more freedom to come and go, and split our time between my wife’s parents and her sister’s family. It was good for our children to spend time with their cousins, and we went on plenty of walks given the weather was so reasonable. New Year’s Eve was spent, like last year, at my sister-in-law’s and I possibly drank a little too much. I know I couldn’t drive the next morning as I’d have been still over the limit. We had a great time though!

Once we’d made our way back home, I was back to work for two days. Thankfully, I’d deleted Telegram from my phone, which is an app that Moodle uses (much) more than email for internal communication. So after posting a 2018 retrospective on my last working day before Christmas, I tried not to think much about all of the stuff we’ve got to do before launching the pilot of MoodleNet in a few weeks’ time!

This weekend, the children are staying over at my parents while my wife and I conduct a financial review. Now that we’re not moving to Barcelona, we’ve got some decisions to make about where we live locally (stick or twist?) and how soon we’d like to aim to pay off our mortgage. Our children are going to turn 12 and eight, respectively, this month, which means it’s a mere six years before our eldest could decide to head off to university.

There’s plenty to look forward to in 2019 for me and my family. My wife’s not working at the moment, and still deciding to what extent she wants to. I say ‘not working’, but I mean in terms of a regular job. For my consultancy and the co-op of which I’m part, she does the book-keeping, organises travel, and generally keeps me sane. I work from home, so I’m grateful that she’s able to tolerate me for extended periods of time!

I’ll be back to the usual format of weeknote from next week, and I’ve already started posting to the Thought Shrapnel blog. While I’m backing up my photos before Flickr deletes them, I think I’ll probably purge some of my blogs as well, linking to archive.org versions of my posts from my wiki. There’s no real need for me to have more than this blog for my personal updates, Thought Shrapnel for reflecting on what I read, and my wiki for everything else.

I hope you have a happy and healthy 2019. I know that’s what I’m aiming for.


Image: around 25 years ago, my sister bought me a mobile featuring a number of what we’ve always called ‘pterodactyls’. I’ve had them up everywhere I’ve lived, and they’re taken down once a year for a careful dusting. I suspect they’re actually cranes.

Weeknote 48/2018

Note: this is my last post on this blog for 2018. I’ll be back in January 👋


This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #326 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. It was entitled, for self-explanatory reasons, ‘Last issue of 2018’. It was, as ever, made possible via those who support me on Patreon.
  • Feeling ill. I took Monday and Friday off and limped through my other days. I’m on the mend, I think.
  • Working on the MoodleNet project (Tues-Thurs):
    • Writing about the work we did in Barcelona after user feedback on the sign-up process, and about writing a lengthy post about Emoji ID.
    • Collaborating with Outlandish on new screens for sign-up.
    • Working with Gry Stene on MoodleNet project resource requirements.
    • Interviewing for a potential UX designer and front-end developer position.
    • Completing 360-degree review questionnaires for my colleagues.
    • Replying to comments in various places about what MoodleNet will and won’t do.
  • Spending a half-day with my We Are Open Co-op colleagues planning for 2019. Give us a shout if we can help you!
  • Wrapping up Thought Shrapnel for this year.

Next week, I’m at home all week working on MoodleNet stuff from Monday to Thursday. I’ve potentially got some co-op work to get done on Friday.

A conversation with Adam Procter about Project ‘NodeNoggin’

I was pleased to have the opportunity to talk last night with Adam Procter about his PhD and Project ‘NodeNoggin’. Listen below or click here:

Notes can be found here, ways to get involved in the project are on GitLab, and you can discuss our conversation in this thread at Adam’s forum.

Weeknote 47/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #325 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. It was entitled ‘Green screen LOLs’ and was, as ever, made possible via those who support me on Patreon.
  • Setting up and configuring a Mastodon instance for Thought Shrapnel supporters. Thanks to those who helped me test it!
  • Working on the MoodleNet project (Mon-Fri):
    • Travelling to and from Barcelona for a team work week. It was the first time Mayel and Alex had met in person, and it was great to have Kayleigh and Sam from Outlandish with us on the Thursday and Friday.
    • Presenting to the Board (and the rest of the management team) MoodleNet’s quarterly review report.
    • Overseeing the hooking-up of the backend and frontend development. It’s going well.
    • Prototyping and reconfiguring some of the user experience for MoodleNet. It was great to be able to connect with Matt from Outlandish, who was back in London, for some of this.
    • Eating a lot of vegetarian and vegan food, which was great.
    • Catching up with Nate Otto and Sara Arjona Téllez about Open Badges and/in Moodle.
    • Reflecting on feedback from user testing around the MoodleNet sign-up process.
    • Putting out our ‘Contributor Covenant‘ for feedback from the community.
  • Recording a microcast, available only to Patreon supporters:
  • Using a new avatar (see the ‘Start here‘ page).
  • Starting to run again after resting my knee last week. I went three times in Barcelona, including down to the marina where I took the (unfiltered) photo that accompanies this weeknote.

Next week I’m at home all week. I’m looking forward to having a rest from blogging, social media and writing Thought Shrapnel. I’m tired.

Weeknote 46/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #324 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. It was entitled ‘Two steps forward, one hour back’ and was, as ever, made possible via those who support me on Patreon.
  • Working on the MoodleNet project (Mon-Thurs):
    • Participating in a Moodle branding workshop.
    • Getting ready for our workweek in Barcelona next week (logistics, booking, etc.)
    • Creating ‘job landscapes’ for a couple of potential additions to our team.
    • Finalising our approach to user testing of the sign-up process with Outlandish.
    • Reviewing the stats for the existing moodle.net with Gavin Henrick and Mary Cooch.
    • Adding a bit more detail to the plan about integrating with Moodle Core.
    • Working with Mayel on our approach to bounties for privacy and security testing.
  • Creating videos for CET Israel as part of the Digital Literacy MOOC they’re creating for teachers in Beer Sheva. It involved me buying a green screen and lights, a bit of a learning curve, and lots of editing. While it was intense work to get finished in time, it was enjoyable!
  • Accepting an invitation from Ilona Buchem to an Open Badges workshop in Brussels next month.
  • Recording two microcasts, which are available only to Patreon supporters:
  • Coming second in a pub quiz in aid of Tearfund. I think that I was the youngest there, so had to lean on the other members of my team…

Next week I’m in Barcelona from Sunday evening to Friday night with the rest of the MoodleNet team and, towards the end of the week, Outlandish.

Weeknote 45/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #323 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. It was entitled ‘46 hours in transit’ and was, as ever, made possible via those who support me on Patreon.
  • Working on the MoodleNet project (Mon-Thurs)
    • Documenting the sessions we ran at MozFest & MoodleMoot on the wiki, and then writing a blog post summary.
    • Creating an overview document of how the ’emoji ID’ functionality in MoodleNet might work
    • Figuring out the workflow for next week’s MoodleNet sign-up testing (being run by Outlandish)
    • Meeting with Gry Stene, Moodle’s new Chief Product Officer.
    • Starting planning ‘job landscapes’ for potential contractors around UX / front end development, and community strategy.
    • Starting a conversation with team leads about MoodleNet functionality in Moodle Core 3.7 (coming May 2019)
    • Welcoming an influx of new people introducing themselves in the MoodleNet forum.
    • Agreeing a new meeting structure for our team, which now includes ‘MoodleNet beers’ on a Thursday afternoon! (I work four days per week for Moodle)
    • Updating my Moodle HQ and moodle.org profiles (which we should all do, apparently):
  • Rewriting one of the seven draft Digital Literacy MOOC scripts for CET Israel. I also created a draft video.
  • Booking, and then cancelling our planned We Are Open co-op meetup in December due to availability. We’re all busy people!
  • Recording one microcast, which is available only to Patreon supporters:
Next week I’m at home all week, working on MoodleNet stuff and those videos for CET. I’m in Barcelona the week after.

Photo of St. James the Great church in Morpeth taken by me on Friday.

Weeknote 44/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #322 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter (last Sunday). It was entitled ‘Back-to-back’ and was, as ever, made possible via those who support me on Patreon.
  • Flying to Denver from London, straight after MozFest, for the US MoodleMoot. It took 22 hours to get there due to flight delays and missed connections.
  • Deciding not to move the family to Barcelona, as the salary from the job offer my wife received was too low, and they wouldn’t negotiate.
  • Working on the MoodleNet project (Mon-Weds)
    • Receiving confirmation that we’ve been successful in pitching for a grant. The money and expertise will help us with a decentralised privacy and security review.
    • Running  a workshop at the US MoodleMoot. I haven’t transcribed all of the post-its from the session yet, but the wiki page for the session can be found here.
    • Confronting some differences in communication styles within our team. This wasn’t easy to deal with as I was away, but hopefully we’ve got it sorted and can move forward.
  • Hanging out with Noah Geisel. He interviewed me for #Badgechat and then I interviewed him for a (public) microcast! I’m indebted to him for showing me some fantastic Denver street art.
  • Meeting Bryan Alexander in person for the first time. We’ve been in touch a lot via email, etc. so it was good to see him in the flesh.
  • Getting back home via plane, train, and automobile. It took 24 hours, even though everything was on time. Why? Because flight times and combinations meant that it was quicker for me to get the train home from London!
  • Completing seven draft scripts, at around 6,500 words, for CET Israel in preparation for an upcoming series of videos I’m recording for their digital literacy MOOC.
  • Curating interesting things I came across on the Thought Shrapnel blog:
  • Recording three microcasts, two of which are available only to Patreon supporters:

Next week, I’m at home all week, working for Moodle from Monday to Thursday, and then doing consultancy work on Friday.


Photo of Denver street art taken by me during a walk with Noah on Wednesday morning.

Weeknote 43/2018

This week I’ve been:

Next week I’m in Denver, CO, USA for MoodleMoot US. I get back home on Thursday, when I’ll be working on stuff for CET Israel.


Photo looking up the Thames towards London taken by me during a family trip on the Emirates Air Line on Friday.

Quality Mountain Day 15: Dale Head, Hindscarth, and High Spy

Regular readers will know that I’m trying to complete twenty Quality Mountain Days (QMDs) so I can book myself on a a Mountain Leader course. Every one of these I’ve done so far has been by myself, partly because I enjoy it that way, and partly down to logistics.

After QMDs 13 and 14, my friend (and TIDE podcast co-host) Dai Barnes offered to come with me on my next jaunt. As a result, we spent all day last Friday, and part of Saturday, walking in the Lake District.

Dai's feet

The thing you need to know about Dai is that he goes barefoot almost everywhere. So when I jokingly reminded him that he’d need some boots for our walking trip, he replied by saying that he’d tie some to his backpack, but was planning to go barefoot. 😲

Although Dai has helped out with students at his school doing The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, he’s not a regular mountain walker. That’s good, because if he had been, the day wouldn’t have counted towards my QMDs.

I sent him a map of the route I’d planned for our first day, and said that we could plan the second one over dinner afterwards. The map below is our 21.1km actual route, which took us around 8.5 hours — including plenty of stops for food and chat.

QMD 15 route

We actually recorded an episode of the TIDE podcast while walking, so if you’re interested, you can sample that here.

Dai going over a stileMeeting at 10:00, we set off from the car park Borrowdale YHA after I’d checked we had the right equipment. We started walking (and recording) but after about 30 minutes I realised we had taken the wrong path. I hadn’t really been paying enough attention!

So we continued around and down towards Seatoller and Honister Hause. We agreed while we were down there that we’d go up towards Great Gable the next day. From Honister we ascended directly up towards Dale Head. That approach is probably the best for someone like Dai who hasn’t been up there before. It’s a magnificent view.

Dale Head

We had a great moment at the top, as Dai had brought his tiny but very powerful speaker up to play one of his stepson’s latest songs.

After something to eat, we walked along Hindscarth Edge and round to Hindscarth itself. We could see the clouds drawing in, which began to obscure our view of Dale Head. We came down via Scope End, which was zig-zaggy in places. All the more annoying as I’d forgotten my walking poles.

Heading across the river at the bottom of the valley, engrossed in conversation, we merrily kept walking into Little Town. Once we realised, we backtracked a little and went around High Crags. It was around 16:00 by this time, so we didn’t fancy going around Cat Bells and Brandelhow. Instead, we aimed for Black Crags.

Sheepfold shortcut

In an error that I refer to on the podcast as ‘sheepfold shortcut’, we got confused between where we were in relation to two sheepfolds (indicated by the purple arrows on the map above).

Doug descending through the disused quarryThat meant we didn’t have much choice but to make an extremely steep ascent up to get along and round to Bull Crag. It wasn’t much fun, but necessary given that it was late afternoon.

From there, we walked along Maiden Moor, Narrow Moor, and then arrived at a misty High Spy. Given that the light was beginning to fade, we attempted to get down Rigghead Quarries as quickly as possible. The fact that Dai did this barefoot quite frankly beggars belief.

By the time we got past the quarries it was dark enough to turn my head torch on. We walked the last section in single file along the river in pitch darkness, being careful where we placed our feet. Dai did put on some very thin sandals for this bit.

Map and pint

After a shower, a change of clothes, and a couple of very well-deserved pints, we plotted our route for the next day over dinner.

Things I learned:

  1. It’s easy to get carried away and not check your map when you’re having an interesting conversation.
  2. Just because something looks like a path, doesn’t mean it is.
  3. Double-check your equipment before leaving the house, and consider having a list (so I don’t forget my poles!)

After a decent night’s sleep and a good breakfast on Saturday morning, we drove over to Honister Hause and started walking a circular route towards Great Gable. However, the wind and the rain was so bad that I had to put on full waterproofs and we sheltered for a while in a bothy near Dubs Quarry.

Honister Hause

We started descending, realising we would then have to go up again. So, after three hours, soaking wet, and with plenty of the route left to walk, we decided to call it a day. We’d had such a great time the day before, that spoiling our trip by trudging through inclement conditions on Saturday seemed a bit pointless.

So, after getting back to our cars, getting changed, and saying our goodbyes, we headed back home — Dai back down to Oundle, near Peterborough, and me back to Morpeth, Northumberland.


Thanks to Dai for some of the photos featured in this post!

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