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.


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.

Weeknote 28/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Helping with last weekend’s Scout camp at up in north Northumberland. Both our children were there. I wasn’t feeling great, so despite what my pre-written newsletter claimed, I drove home to sleep in my bed rather than in a tent.
  • Sending out Issue #311 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. This one was called ‘Under canvas’. Thanks to the 39 patrons who back me via Patreon plus those who continue their support via Gumroad!
  • Migrainey to the extent that I took all day Monday and Tuesday morning off work. I don’t know what triggered it, but it all started on Wednesday last week, and took about a week for me to recover. I don’t know where migraines end and I begin at the best of times, and I’m glad to be feeling a lot better.
  • Behind on my MoodleNet work due to the above. I did, however, manage to catch up with Mayel on work he can be doing while I’m away this week and next. I also wrote a blog post updating the community on work we’ve done with Outlandish on UX work we’ve done over the last couple of weeks.
  • Curating interesting things I came across on the Thought Shrapnel blog. This week I collected some quotations and commented on the following:
  • Resurrecting my Discours.es blog after half a year of neglect. I wrote on things that, for one reason or another, didn’t seem to fit elsewhere. I guess I see it as kind of ‘long-form bookmarking’:
  • Running a workshop on digital literacies in Manchester for the Carnegie UK Trust‘s #NotWithoutMe digital accelerator programme. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was very tired at the end, despite it only being a half-day session! My slides can be found here.
  • Missing the regular 90 minutes of the England vs. Croatia World Cup football match. From Manchester, I got to Bryan Mathers‘ house just before extra time started.
  • Meeting up with my We Are Open Co-op colleagues in London, which I’ve written about on our blog. As ever, I really enjoyed it and it reaffirmed my faith (as meetups always do) in the importance of what we’re doing.
  • Visiting the Tate Modern in London. I appreciate modern art, and am a big fan of people using whatever medium they want to express themselves. I do find it hard to get too excited about models of concrete tenement blocks and canvases painted a single colour, however.

Next week, I’m going to be in Montana, USA, for this year’s MountainMoot. I’m running a session on MoodleNet but, more importantly listening to, and learning from, the Moodle community.


Weeknote 27/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #310 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. This one was called ‘Moodling about in Barcelona’. Thanks to the 39 patrons who back me via Patreon plus those who continue their support via Gumroad!
  • Slightly sunburned on a family walk to Linhope Spout.
  • Discussing some potential upcoming work for We Are Open co-op with MyKnowledgeMap.
  • Running a half-day workshop on non-linear pathways and Open Badges for the National STEM Learning Centre in York. You can see the 112 slides I used here and I’ve also put together a next steps document for them.
  • Learning Spanish after setting up a Moodle club in Duolingo.
  • Presenting on digital literacies to the European Commission’s Connect University Summer School 2018. My slides are can be found here.
  • Working on the MoodleNet project:
    • Working less Mayel was fighting off the ‘flu and I took Wednesday afternoon off due to a migraine. We’ll both catch up!
    • Responding to feedback from last week’s MoodleMoot Spain session. You can see our answers to some of the questions in this blog post.
    • Reviewing the collections and communities functionality of Google+ in this document.
    • Planning with Outlandish on upcoming UX work. You can see the outputs of their research/discovery phase here.
    • Providing input for Outlandish on the first UX milestone. We created documents to demonstrate the functionality we want for threaded discussions and notifications.
    • Reviewing a document prepared by consultant Phil Barker around OER sources and following up on his recommendations.
    • Meeting with Tom Murdock to discuss integration with MoodleCloud.
    • Drafting community guidelines for participating in the project.
    • Committing code for the first time to our GitHub repository. Mayel created a prototype tool to hash contacts before upload for privacy-respecting social discovery.
    • Considering submitting a proposal for the Mozilla Festival in late October (right before the US Moot) on the theme of ‘decentralisation’.
  • Breaking (and then fixing) my WordPress installations both here and at Thought Shrapnel by clicking ‘update theme’ without thinking about it first. I’ve only been using WP for, what, 15 years now? I should know better.
  • Curating interesting things I came across on the Thought Shrapnel blog. This week I collected some quotations and commented on the following:

I’m helping out with a Scout Camp this weekend, which means I miss the football on Saturday! Next week I’m at home working on MoodleNet-related things on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, I head to Manchester to help with the Carnegie UK Trust’s #NotWithoutMe programme. I’ll then continue my journey by heading on to London for a We Are Open Co-op meetup!

Weeknote 26/2018

This week I’ve been:

Next week I’m working from home on Monday, in York on Tuesday working with the National STEM Learning Network, and then working with Moodle from Wednesday to Friday.

Weeknote 25/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #308 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. This one was called ‘World Cup(cake)’. Thanks to the 39 patrons who back me via Patreon plus those who continue their support via Gumroad!
  • Working on the MoodleNet project:
  • Accompanying my son to hospital a couple of times for a total of around seven hours. He was messing around with his friends after school and a stray rugby tackle knocked him out cold. He’s had some double-vision, but should be OK!
  • Catching up with Cliff Manning about some upcoming work with the Carnegie UK Trust’s #NotWithoutMe digital accelerator project. I also put together an agenda for a workshop I’m running next month for the National STEM Learning Centre.
  • Spending much less time reading and reading due to my son’s injury. That’s meant only one post on the Thought Shrapnel blog: Crawling before you walk.
  • Watching as many World Cup football matches as I can.
  • Opting-out of NHS data gathering (for the second time) on behalf of my family. Given recent revelations about data-sharing with Google, I don’t see why I should give anyone more information about my family’s health than is strictly necessary.
  • Re-elected as Secretary of our local Scout group at the AGM.
  • Testing out Nextcloud again using a free account at disroot.org. I’d quite like to know that important data such as photos, bookmarks, and files are safe and in a place that isn’t being data-mined. I’ve started supporting Disroot on Patreon at $2/month while I test it out, and will up my backing to the $15/month level for the complete list of services if I continue using them.

Next week I’m doing five days for Moodle. I’ll be at home on Monday until my flight to Barcelona in the evening for the MoodleMoot. I’m very much looking forward to visiting the new Moodle office in Barcelona, which opens just before the Moot! I get back home on Friday night.

Image by clement127 used under a CC BY-NC-ND license

Weeknote 24/2018

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #307 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. This one was called ‘Home on the range’. Thanks to the 38 patrons who back me via Patreon plus those who are supporters via Gumroad!
  • Recording, editing and releasing Episode 104 of the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast with my co-host Dai Barnes. We entitled this episode ‘Facebook folly’ and discussed leadership, inequality, anarchy, Facebook’s role in society, drugs use in universities, ‘facilitating’ subjects, and more!
  • Working on the MoodleNet project:
    • Continuing our first two-week sprint, focused on setting milestones for the project. This took a while as there a lots of different approaches and moving parts. You can check out our Trello board and milestones (which are all linked to Jira epics). We’re taking account of travel and holidays in listing future sprints, which we’ve got mapped up to the end of October.
    • Figuring out how we’re going to run community calls after being advised by Moodle’s DPO and Legal Counsel, Carlo Polizzi (very nicely!) that we weren’t capturing data from community members in a GDPR-compliant way. More in this blog post.
    • Updating our project overview slide deck to v0.6 and presenting to this month’s Moodle Users Association town hall meeting.
    • Meeting with Martin Dougiamas and Mayel de Borniol to discuss the best way for MoodleNet to integrate with Moodle Core. We’re considering launching with only support for MoodleCloud, as this simplifies compatibility with resources and different versions. However, we’ve more thinking to do on that…
    • Helping the rest of the Team Leads figure out which project management software we should use.
    • Mapping out the spectrum between building a fully federated system and a closed SaaS product. Unsurprisingly, we’re attempting to build something that’s as open as possible while being commercially viable. An ‘API-as-a-service’ approach may work well here, but we’ve further work to do.
    • Catching up with Alberto Corado on UX/Design input to the MoodleNet project, and also Gavin Henrick and Tom Murdock about project management.
  • Curating interesting things I came across on the Thought Shrapnel blog. This week I collected some quotations and commented on the following:
    • Higher Education and blockchain
    • On ‘instagrammability’
    • F*** off Google
    • “Search for the seed of good in every adversity. Master that principle and you will own a precious shield that will guard you well through all the darkest valleys you must traverse. Stars may be seen from the bottom of a deep well, when they cannot be discerned from the mountaintop. So will you learn things in adversity that you would never have discovered without trouble. There is always a seed of good. Find it and prosper.”(Og Mandino)
    • Where memes come from
    • “Whenever we get swept up in the self-reinforcing momentum and seductive logic of some new technology, we forget to ask what else it might be doing, how else it might be working, and who ultimately benefits most from its appearance. Why time has been diced into the segments between notifications, why we feel so inadequate to the parade of images that reach us through our devices, just why it is that we feel so often feel hollow and spent. What might connect our choices and the processes that are stripping the planet, filthing the atmosphere, and impoverishing human and nonhuman lives beyond number. Whether and in what way our actions might be laying the groundwork for an oppression that is grimmer yet and still more total. And finally we forget to ask whether, in our aspiration to overcome the human, we are discarding a gift we already have at hand and barely know what to do with.” (Adam Greenfield)
    • Inequality, anarchy, and the course of human history
  • Going on a Fathers Day hike with my son’s Scouts troop.
  • Configuring three reconditioned Amazon Fire 8 HD tablets (+microSD cards) I purchased for my kids and me. My wife already has a Xiaomi Mi Pad 3. I’ve installed the F-Droid marketplace so I can install the Yalp to download apps from the Google Play store. It’s also possible to use LauncherHijack so you can use something like Lawnchair instead of the stock Amazon launcher.
  • Enjoying World Cup 2018, although I missed Spain vs. Portugal as I was, unexpectedly, actually playing football. I was on my way into the gym when someone popped their head out of the leisure centre sports hall saying they were a player short.
  • Taking Friday off and picking our brand-new (second hand) car, a 2013 Volvo V60.
  • Writing:

Next week I’m working from home all week, preparing for the week after when I’ll be in Barcelona at MoodleMoot Spain 2018!

Open source community calls in the wake of GDPR

I am a supporter of the intentions and sentiment behind the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force last month. However, it comes with some side effects.

Take community calls for the open source community, for example. Here’s how they often work:

  • Agenda — someone with a level of responsibility within the project creates an agenda using a service you don’t have to login to access and to which everyone can contribute (e.g. Etherpad)
  • Synchronous call — at the appointed time, those wishing to participate connect to some kind of audio and/or video conferencing services (e.g. Zoom)
  • Recordings — those who are interested in the project but couldn’t participate at the time catch up via the agenda and recording.

I’ve been running community calls using this kind of approach for the last five years or so. It’s an effective method and a process I do so automatically, I didn’t even think about the GDPR implications.

Yesterday, however, I was informed (very nicely!) by Carlo Polizzi, Moodle’s DPO and Legal Counsel, that I needed to delete the data I’d collected in this way and find a new way to do this.

GDPR requires that (unless community members contribute anonymously) we must, at the very least:

  1. Gain consent from each individual that we can store their personal data and that they agree to our privacy policy.
  2. Inform individuals what that data will be used for and how long we will be storing it.
  3. Give them the option of withdrawing that consent at any time and having their data deleted.

This means, of course, that community members are going to have to register and then log in to a system that tracks them over time. I’ve written before about creating an architecture of participation for episodic volunteering. This certainly prevents more of a challenge for the ‘easy onboarding’ part of that.

So, not sure what to do, put up the Bat-Signal and asked my network. Out of that came suggestions to use:

  • An encrypted etherpad solution that auto-deletes after a specified amount of time (e.g. CryptPad)
  • Forum software that feels quite ‘realtime’ (e.g. Discourse)
  • A Moodle course with guest access open (e.g. MoodleCloud)

On a more meta level, I also had some feedback that synchronous communication discriminates users for whom English isn’t their first language and/or who are disabled.

For now, given the above feedback, we’re going to end community calls in their current guise. I’ve met with Mary Cooch, Moodle’s community educator to discuss a few options for how we could do things differently, and we’re going to explore using the existing MoodleNet discussion forum at moodle.org along with BigBlueButton.

If you’ve got any questions, comments, or suggestions, I’d love to hear them, as this is something that many other open source projects are going to have to grapple with, as well!

Image CC BY-SA opensource.com