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On the difference between people-centric and resource-centric social networks

Something Tom Murdock said recently resonated enough with me that I felt the need to write it down in a place that I can reference. Here is as good a place as any!

I’m leading Project MoodleNet, which is currently described as “a new open social media platform for educators, focused on professional development and open content”. Tom mentioned that he saw an important difference between ‘people-centric’ and ‘resource-centric’ social networks.

(Note: it’s been a couple of weeks since that conversation, so anything witty or clever I say in the next few paragraphs should be attributed to him, and anything confusing or stupid should be attributed to me)

I should also point out that I blog about things I’m thinking about here, whereas the official project blog can be found at

What is a resource-centric social network?

A people-centric social network is something like Facebook or LinkedIn. Users have a single identity and want to follow or connect with you as a person. A resource-centric social network is something like Pinterest or Thingiverse where people interact and engage with you through the resources you’re sharing.

I think most people reading this will understand how Facebook and LinkedIn work. Imagine them towards one end of the spectrum, and Pinterest and Thingiverse towards the other. Twitter is an interesting case here, as users can have multiple accounts and follow non-human accounts. I suppose it would probably be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

A quick tour of Thingiverse

I think Project MoodleNet is more of a resource-centric social network. To illustrate that, I want to explore Thingiverse, a wonderful site I came across recently after acquiring a 3D printer. Here’s what the About page says:

MakerBot’s Thingiverse is a thriving design community for discovering, making, and sharing 3D printable things. As the world’s largest 3D printing community, we believe that everyone should be encouraged to create and remix 3D things, no matter their technical expertise or previous experience. In the spirit of maintaining an open platform, all designs are encouraged to be licensed under a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can use or alter any design.

So it’s:

  1. A registered trademark
  2. Owned by a company
  3. Focused on makers
  4. Allows the sharing of open content
  5. Encourages remixing

In that sense, it’s a very interesting model for Project MoodleNet.

Let’s look a little more closely. Below you can see the home page. The site is obviously curated by real human beings, as they’ve featured particular designs, and created collections which include designs from different users. There’s a feed of latest activity, the calls to action in the top menu bar make it obvious that this is a living community full of creative people.

Thingiverse home page

The next thing you notice when you click through onto a particular design is that there’s a lot of information here to help orient you. There’s a clear call-to-action below ‘DOWNLOAD ALL FILES’ but also we can see how many times it’s been liked, watched, commented upon, and remixed.

Thingiverse design

Click on the remix button and you get to see those who have remixed the original design in some way. If the design you’re looking at is itself a remix, it also allows you to look at the original, too.

Naturally, you want to know a little bit about the person who created it. Perhaps they’ve created some other things you’d like? Clicking on the user name reveals their Thingiverse profile.

Thingiverse profile

There’s lots of information about the person here: their username, location, Twitter profile, website, short biography. However, the focus is still on their resources. What have they designed? What have they shared?

The last thing to highlight is how Thingiverse deals with openly-licensed resources. When you click to download the files, the first thing that pops up is a windows that tells you in no uncertain terms about the license under which this resource has been made available.

Thingiverse CC licensing

In addition, it encourages you to ‘show some love’ to the designer. You can tip them using money via PayPal, and you can take a photo to ‘document’ your 3D print of their design, and you.

Final thoughts

I’m very impressed with the thought that’s been put into Thingiverse. I don’t know the history of the community, but it feels like something that has responded to users. In turn, I should imagine that when those who are regular users of Thingiverse come to purchase their next 3D printer, Makerbot will be top of their list. It’s a virtuous circle.

So there’s a lot to learn from here that we can apply to Project MoodleNet. I like the way that they make it easy for people new to the community. I love the ease by which you can use the fork-remix-share approach that developers are used to on GitHub, but many educators are still yet to discover. And I adore the way that they encourage users to ‘show some love’ to original resource creators, educating them on how to use openly-licensed content appropriately.

Weeknote 02/2018

This week I’ve been:

Next week I’m at home from Monday to Wednesday, then I’m down meeting with my We Are Open Co-op colleagues in London on Thursday and Friday. The week after I’ll be at the Bett Show on the Friday.

Weeknote 01/2018

So here we are! The first weeknote of 2018. You know the drill.

This week I’ve been:

  • Celebrating the New Year. I spent Christmas at home with just my wife and children, but we went down to Devon to the in-laws for New Year and had a great time.
  • Redesigning Thought Shrapnel, which is now not only a weekly newsletter, but also a blog! I think you’ll agree that Bryan Mathers did a great job with the logo. Read more about that here. You can become a supporter to show your appreciation for this work, and to ensure it continues!
  • Returning to life as an employee! As I mentioned before Christmas, I’m leading a new innovation project for Moodle. This involves working for them four days per week, and I can do so from home (with a bit of travel). So in a sense, lots has changed, and nothing at all. Note I’m still doing some consultancy, mostly through We Are Open co-op.
  • Meeting with Moodle colleague Tom Murdock about various things.
  • Introducing myself on the forum for the upcoming Learn Moodle Basics course. It’s been a few years since I used Moodle, so I thought I’d get back up-to-speed along with Mary Cooch and the community!
  • Working a short week due to New Year’s Day on Monday. My ‘Doug day’ (or, more likely, ‘consultancy / admin / catch-up-with-all-the-things day’) is likely to be Fridays, most weeks. This time around it was full of admin and my children begging me to play with them instead, — as they don’t go back to school until next week.
  • Sorting out various things as Secretary of the Executive Committee for 6th Morpeth Scouts.  I’m trying to streamline some stuff around meetings, calendaring, etc.
  • Facepalming at Dell, who want to charge me over £900 to fix a my less than one-year old XPS 13 laptop which has a threaded screw in the base. This is causing it come apart near the screen. As a result of their greed and poor customer service, I’ve used duct tape to patch it up as best I can, and bought a £60 battery to resurrect my Lenovo X220. I prefer the keyboard on the latter anyway, and in fact I’m using it to type this!
  • Writing:

Next week I’m at home all week, and celebrating my daughter’s birthday towards the end of it. I’ll be in London twice this month, the week after next for a co-op meetup, and then the week after that, I’ll be at BETT on the Friday.

Photo taken by me on New Years’ Day at Branscombe beach, Devon.

Why I didn’t go on ‘Belshaw Black Ops’ at the end of 2017

At the end of every year since 2010 I have, to the greatest extent possible, disappeared back into the analogue world to recharge. This has been known as Belshaw Black Ops after Paul Lewis decided that just calling it a ‘hiatus’ wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll enough.

I’ve greatly appreciated these periods away from social media, blogging, and personal email as a time when I can be ‘more myself’. Why, then, a few people have asked me, didn’t I continue this routine at the end of 2017? The simple answer is that I’ve achieved the kind of balance that means it didn’t feel necessary.

There are a number of factors here:

  1. Switching from Twitter to half-way through the year. Given that I still get the most-shared stuff from my Twitter network filtering through to me via Nuzzel, that’s been a revelation.
  2. Looking after myself a bit better health-wise, including deciding to follow a mostly plant-based diet, starting running again, and taking supplements such as multivitamins, high doses of Vitamin D, and L-Theanine.
  3. Enjoying the sunnier weather where I live (it makes a difference!)
  4. Blogging in a more short-form way via and Thought Shrapnel Live!
  5. Prioritising what’s important in my life. I find reading Stoic philosophy every morning helps greatly in that regard.

Today is my first day back as an employee. I’m working for Moodle, makers of the world’s largest (open source!) learning platform. I’m working four days per week leading an innovation project for them aimed at creating a new open social media platform for educators, focused on professional development and open content. I’ll still be consulting through We Are Open Co-op.

It was my birthday just before Christmas, and I’ve now spent most of my thirties working from home. There’s benefits and drawbacks to doing so, but the main upside for me is much more control over my schedule. I’ll still have a lot of autonomy at Moodle, so I anticipate that, while I’ll be away during the summer, there won’t be a need for Belshaw Black Ops in 2018, either.

Photo by Paul Green available under a CC0 license

Weeknote 51/2017

It feels weird to be writing a 51st weeknote of the year, as usually I’ve gone on ‘Belshaw Black Ops’, forsaking social media and blogging for the last month (or two) of the year. This time around, I haven’t felt that I’ve needed to, which I suppose is a good thing.

Anyway, this week I’ve been:

Next week it’s Christmas! I’m not working until Tuesday 2nd January, when I start my new four day a week role with Moodle. I’m still available for consultancy one day a week, most of which I’ll be doing through We Are Open Co-op.

Featured image of a 3D-printed Christmas decoration taken by me earlier this week!

Weeknote 50/2017

This week I’ve been:

Next week, I’m working four days (Monday-Thursday) from home on the MoodleNet white paper. It’s my birthday on Friday, so I’ll be eating mince pies, drinking whisky, and playing FIFA 18 instead of working.

Photo of Clayton Hotel, Ballsbridge (where I stayed in Dublin) taken by me on Thursday night.

Come and get involved with the MoodleNet community!

TL;DR: I’m leading a new project called MoodleNet that is currently described as “a new open social media platform for educators, focussed on professional development and open content”.

I don’t know about you, but I like getting involved with projects on the ‘ground floor’, so to speak. Figuring things out excites me, as does taking a bunch of possibilities and figuring out a way forward. It’s with this in mind that I’d like to invite you to get involved with a new project I’m leading: MoodleNet.

MoodleNet ecosystem

It’s really early days and, in fact, we’re still figuring out what MoodleNet actually is. Suffice to say that Martin Dougiamas, Founder and CEO of Moodle, sold me on it enough that I’ve agreed to spend four days per week on it from January 2018. One way he’s described it is as, “a new open social media platform for educators, focussed on professional development and open content”. Sounds good to me!

If you’ve been involved in any of the work I’ve helped establish before, such as Open Badges or the Web Literacy Map, then I want you to know that you’re very welcome as part of this new project I’m leading. So are those who are entirely new to this way of working! As you’d expect, we’ll be working entirely in the open, making progress with a combination of community input, business priorities, and decisions taken by Moodle HQ.

Job one is to write a white paper that helps tell the story of what MoodleNet could be. I loved the approach Erin Knight took with the original Open Badges for Lifelong Learning working paper, where she explained how badges could help in various scenarios. I need help in defining those scenarios for MoodleNet .

No matter whether you’ve got ten minutes, ten hours, or ten days to contribute to the MoodleNet project, your time and experience is valued. I’d love it if you could check out the work so far, introduce yourself in the MoodleNet forums, and perhaps help out with white paper. Thank you in advance!

Some people may wonder what  taking on this new role as MoodleNet Lead means for my consultancy business, Dynamic Skillset — and for the co-operative I co-founded, We Are Open.

This opportunity to lead an open-source project that could help so many educators and learners was too good to pass up! I’ve really enjoyed full-time consultancy with a range of clients, but it’s time to get my teeth into something longer-term.

Given that I’ll be working four days per week with Moodle, I still have scope for additional consultancy and working through the co-op. Feel free to get in touch as usual! It’s just that now my time will just be even more precious than usual, and I’ll have to lean on my co-op colleagues to a greater degree.

Weeknote 49/2017

This was another one of those weeks that doesn’t make much sense to capture in bullet-point form, so instead I’ll go for paragraphs. Also, people seemed to like my roundup of the CoTech retreat last week that featured a lot of images, so I’ll do the same in this one.

Last Friday, I flew to Amsterdam with my wife. We’d planned the trip in the summer, deciding that this year we wouldn’t just talk about going somewhere in December, but actually book it. Initially, we thought about going to a Christmas market in a German, Czech, or Polish city, but after finding out about the Amsterdam Light Festival, decided to go there instead.

Amsterdam canal boats

We actually went to Amsterdam reasonably recently – three years ago, for a delayed celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary. As we’d did the ‘touristy’ things then, we were freed up to do other things this time around. That being said, we still did lots, which meant that I didn’t get any time to put together a newsletter.

Beer or Rain?

My wife and I stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton Amsterdam Centraal Station. It’s a great location, and a nice hotel. The room was quiet, the beds were comfortable, and the staff were very friendly. The breakfast buffet was one of the best I’ve seen – and as regular readers know, I’ve travelled to a fair few places in North America and Europe over the past few years. My only complaint would be the lack of attention by staff at breakfast, and the NOISE. I can’t stand having my eardrums attacked as I’m still getting used to a new day.

Amsterdam Festival of Light

The theme of the Festival of Light this year is ‘Existential’ which, as a Philosophy graduate, was right up my street. We took a guided canal boat trip which featured several artworks by artists from around the world. I loved the idea of the image of a lighthouse being projected onto the side of a museum, as being the inverse of its function. Also, the ‘black hole’, seemingly sucking you into one of the tunnels was great – as was the waveform that responded to the sound made by the boats underwater.

Shopping in the Jordaan district, Amsterdam

The rest of the time we wandered around the Jordaan district, and in particular the ‘nine streets’ famous for their quirky little shops. Thanks to Foursquare, we ate and drank at some great places, including Mata Hari, Back to Black, and Kessens. Even the restaurant at the hotel was enjoyable, which, I have to say, is unusual.

Amsterdam canal houses

In a spectacular example of serendipity, a few weeks ago Jeroen de Boer, Innovation Advisor at Bibliotheekservice Fryslân got in touch to ask if there was any chance I was free for a weekin December to work with his team. As a result, I moved a couple of things around meaning that, when my wife flew home on Sunday night, I headed to Leeuwarden in the north of the Netherlands to work with a group of librarians.


In Leeuwarden, I stayed at the Post Plaza hotel. It was converted a couple of years ago from the old Post Office and Bank, with the two connected via a glass walkway. It’s a beautiful hotel, and one with a rich history that was told to us by a tour guide who led us around the city on Thursday night.

Post Plaza, Leeuwarden

During the Second World War, the Post Office was occupied by German soldiers, who intended to blow it up as the Allies were close. They didn’t want the Allies to be able to use the building for communications, so placed 72 bombs in the basement. As some of the postal workers were part of the Resistance, they hatched a plan to replace all of the bombs with fake ones of the same weight, created by comrades who previously specialised in fake passports. When the time came, the Germans lit the fuse, and… nothing!

Bibliotheekservice Fryslan

Bibliotheekservice Fryslân is a provincial library service who have won awards for their innovative work. With perhaps the exception of the staff of London CLC, I’ve rarely worked with a team who are simultaneously so dedicated and friendly. I had a great week. We spent our time building a plan for them to start issuing Open Badges based on my work around digital literacies. It’s very humbling when you see your work being used in a language other than which you created it.

Kennissessie Digitale Geletterdheid

The week was kicked off by an event on Monday open to those across the province. Ilona Kish, Director of Public Libraries 2020, and EU-funded project, was a speaker at the event, as was I. Our presentations provoked discussion and a workshop in the afternoon for a smaller group, which I led.

Why does it matter? (Ilona Kish presentation)

On Tuesday, I had some time to myself, and then met with Jeroen and Marc Coenders, professor at the local university of Applied Sciences. We had a long and interesting discussion about the overlaps between our work.


Wednesday was a long day, with several of the Bibliotheekservice Fryslân, two ‘makers’ they work with, and me driving all the way to Middelburg in Zeeland for a ‘FabTable‘ event in their library’s makerspace. They also took the FryskLab, a mobile library turned into mobile FabLab! I presented on digital literacies and badges, then we headed home again, arriving back after midnight.

Doing the work with Post-it notes, Bibliotheekservice Fryslân

On Thursday and Friday we had some time to go into depth with staff at Bibliotheekservice Fryslân and other partner library services about digital literacies and Open Badges. I appreciated the trust that the group put in me, after I explained that coming up with a rigid agenda would suit nobody. Instead, I adapted what we did to their interests and energy levels, leading them through a range of activities.

Post-it notes, Bibliotheekservice Fryslân

By 15:00 on Friday, we’d covered all but two of the things that the group had said they wanted to achieve, and even they were in progress. Bibliotheekservice Fryslân has a plan around a sort of ‘manifesto’ for Digital Librarianship, together with some badges which designed for five personas we developed during our time together.

Personas created by Doing the work with Post-it notes, Bibliotheekservice Fryslân staff and illustrated by Edward Kobus

I felt very looked-after during my time in Leeuwarden, and look forward to potentially returning at some point in the future to help them with their project. It’s a beautiful city and, in fact, will be European Capital of Culture in 2018. If you’re reading this, then you should consider going to visit!

KLM flight home

I’m back home now, after getting a train from Leeuwarden to Schipol Airport via Zwolle, flying to Newcastle and then getting a taxi home. Travel, plus the intensity of this week’s work has meant that the only other thing of substance I’ve done is curate and send out Badge News #23, which is the last one of 2017. It features a round-up of the most clicked-on links of the year.

Next week, I’m working from home from Monday to Wednesday, then in Dublin on Thursday and Friday. Monday is all about meetings and writing, Tuesday and Wednesday I’m focusing on researching and writing the MoodleNet white paper, and then on Thursday and Friday I’m hanging out with Moodle colleagues Gavin Henrick, Mary Cooch, and Garnet Berry. That’s the last travel for me before Christmas!

Fabulous illustrations by Edward Kobus (used with permission). Disappointing photos solely my own responsibility.

I make my living helping people and organisations become more productive in their use of technology. If you’ve got something that you think I might be able to help with, please do get in touch! Email: