Category: Weeknotes (page 1 of 31)

Weeknotes 32 & 33/2019

I’m composing this from Boston Logan airport before an overnight flight to Manchester, and a drive back home. Team Belshaw has been in New England on holiday for the past couple of weeks. In many ways it’s felt a lot longer than that.

Let’s deal with the positives first. Our experiences here have been the kind we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. The kids have got on well together — gloriously screen-free, apart from the occasional movie on a TV in an Airbnb.

The weather has been exactly what we hoped for: hot without being scorching. We travelled clockwise from Boston, to Cape Cod, to Providence, Rhode Island. From there we went up to Vermont and then across to Maine. Finally, we drove back to Boston to fly home.

It’s the most expensive holiday we’ve ever been on for a couple of reasons. First, New England is an expensive place to take a vacation in there summer. We managed to score super-cheap flights thanks to Jack’s Flight Club, but the accommodation cost a lot more than we were expecting.

Second, it was announced a few days into our holiday that the British pound was the lowest it had been against the US dollar since 1985. In these kinds of situations, you can decide to economise as much as possible, or just enjoy your holiday and deal with the consequences when you get home. Unusually, we decided to do the latter.

Some of the many memories I’ll take back with me:

  • Going whale-watching off Cape Cod at the same time as starting to read Moby Dick for the first time.
  • Playing ‘baseball’ with a foam bat-and-ball pretty much everywhere we stayed.
  • Visiting, and photographing, beautiful old lighthouses along the coast of Maine and Cape Cod.
  • Kayaking near Cape Elizabeth (it was our daughter’s first time!)
  • Paddling in Queechee Gorge in Vermont and imagining what it must have been like hundreds of years ago.
  • Eating whole lobster and feeling like we were eating an alien!

We’d definitely come back, especially to Cape Cod which we absolutely loved.


Now then, while I was away, the plan was to uninstall all messaging and social media apps from my phone. It was supposed to be a break from what can feel very much like an always-on, hyperconnected lifestyle back home.

As I’ve already written, we stepped off the plane to some tragic news about my good friend Dai Barnes. Given that Twitter is the place many know him from, it was important to try and balance honouring his memory with being present for my family.

As a result of being on Twitter, I couldn’t help but become briefly embroiled in a debate which happened amongst educators in Twitter. I didn’t originally engage with it directly, but rather reminded white guys with a decent following that they have responsibilities via this tweet:

If you're a white male with a bunch of followers, it's probably worth:1. Telling people that you're anti-racist, anti-homophobic, and anti-transphobic (if, indeed, you are)2. Acting like it.#its2019people

(I delete my tweets every month, so this is a screenshot)

Unfortunately, instead of any kind of nuance or healthy debate, the whole thing descended into A Hashtag About Which People Should Take Sides™. I’ve been a little skeptical when people have called Twitter a ‘rage machine’ because of the move they’ve made towards an algorithmic timeline. Well, I was wrong to be doubtful; this was that in action.

If you want to read more on the whole debacle, I’d recommend that you read Shame Cycles and Twitter Rage by Sherri Spelic, and Edutwitter, Witches, and Whiteness by Michael Cole.


Next week will be all about the jet lag and catching up with developments with MoodleNet while I’ve been away. I’ve been mostly Telegram-free all holiday, so I guess I should be thankful for small mercies.

Weeknote 31/2019

This has been a week of consciously winding-down towards my holidays. Too often it takes me a few days to properly relax and then, inevitably, a few days before going back to work you start shifting back into ‘work mode’. During a two-week holiday, therefore, I end up only getting a couple of days of proper relaxation.

I worked two and half days instead of my usual four this week, and spent time preparing for Team Belshaw’s upcoming holiday to New England. We’ve got a bunch of stuff planned, including kayaking, cycling, exploring the history of the region, and chilling out next to water.

The main aim this week was to make sure the rest of the MoodleNet team can be productive in my absence. Given how talented and self-sufficient they are, that’s not a particularly difficult thing to do, but any team needs co-ordination.

As part of these efforts I produced a MoSCoW prioritisation grid for both pre-beta and post-beta functionality. For such a simple approach, it turned out to be remarkably useful. I also did some work around OKRs and other admin-focused tasks, and met with Eummena, who have hired developers specifically to work on MoodleNet.

I did my usual Thought Shrapnel work this week, including an article on FOMO, a microcast on Philosophy and Accessibility, and a roundup of links that I found interesting. My wife and I also went out for afternoon tea at The Running Fox, I hosted a Scout Leaders’ planning meeting, and I spent some time cleaning the street sign at the bottom of my road (after running out of patience with the council).

Next week, I’ll be… ON HOLIDAY! 🏖️


Photograph of Tynemouth South Lighthouse taken by me on a family walk last Sunday.

Weeknote 30/2019

I’m writing this in my lounge where, when I look up from my laptop screen, I can see a sky the colour of tupperware providing the kind of rain you expect to see in Autumn.

It’s been a strange old week, weather wise. We’ve had days in the high twenties celsius, followed by thunderstorms and now rain. A neighbour’s daughter is getting married today. It’s as if she’s being trolled by the weather.

The first of six summer holiday weeks has gone by as you’d expect with a 12 year-old and 8 year-old in the house. Or, not in the house as much as possible. They’ve been at an athletics camp and church holiday club, respectively, which has kept them busy. I’ve been working more in the house, mainly because my well-insulated home office turns into an oven at temperatures over 20°C.

This time next week we’ll be in the car, driving to Manchester airport to then fly to Boston, MA. This came about, as I’ve been telling people for the last few months, because of a wonderful app called Jack’s Flight Club. The rest of my family have never been to the US of A before, and so when an ‘error fare‘ appeared back in January, we jumped on it straight away! We’re also going to Iceland in December from Edinburgh airport ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Back to this week, and I’ve been doing a bunch of stuff, including in my four days for Moodle:

  • Releasing the clickable prototype of MoodleNet’s UI 2.0 to the community for feedback.
  • Contacting those who have volunteered (so far) for the federation testing programme.
  • Facilitating an internal Moodle meeting at short notice, which included a (very) condensed version of the pre-mortem activity I’ve written about before.
  • Grappling with Moodle Tracker. We’ve realised that sub-tasks get in the way of our workflow.
  • Spent time thinking through an updated workflow for uploading openly-licensed resources to MoodleNet
  • Reviewing a new Moodle ‘How We Do Things Around Here’ course from the People & Culture team.
  • Updating the MoodleNet overview slide deck for July 2019.
  • Doing some quick research into resource-sharing in ALT’s journal.

I’m a big fan of quotations, and perhaps I should start including one every week here. This week, I’ve been thinking about how the delicate act of being a Product Manager is such great practice for being a better human being:

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.

Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

I published my usual three posts for Thought Shrapnel which this week were:

I also changed the avatar on my social media profiles for summer, after reading a great section of Jonathan Crace’s book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep talking about ‘everyday life’.

After my move from Linux to ChromeOS (+Linux) at the start of the year, I explained how to get a Linux software centre on ChromeOS, and created a screencast demonstrating a useful search hack.

Next week is going to be successful if my wife and children remain happy, we manage to pack for our holiday without any drama, and MoodleNet remains on-track.


Photo taken by me on a family walk to The Plough at Mitford and back #nofilter

Weeknote 29/2019

I’m writing this sitting in my lounge while my daughter is watching Gym Stars (her favourite programme) and my son is upstairs playing Fortnite (his favourite game). My wife has just served up some magnificent scones with clotted cream and jam to celebrate the end of the school term.

Even though it’s almost a decade since I worked in schools, my brain still works in academic terms. It’s hard for it not to, really, given the lives of the other three members of my immediate family are school-centred.

I’ve got another couple of weeks before we head off on holiday. There’s plenty to get done, but it’s all manageable, I think. The clickable prototype that Ivan has been working on is looking great, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with the community next week.

This week, MoodleNet started federating! That meant that this week we shared a blog post for expressions of interest for our Federation testing programme. We’ve still got work to do on the front end and back end, but we’re aiming for this to kick off in about a month’s time.

I was looking forward to the Scouts Beach BBQ this week but, unfortunately, it rained. That meant we decamped to the Methodist church (where are meetings are usually held) and cooked the burgers, etc. in the ovens. Thankfully, everyone still came, so it was a good end-of-term event.

For Thought Shrapnel this week I wrote a pretty long article with an equally-long title: The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge. I recorded a microcast entitled Voice assistants, the gig economy, and… giving it all up? And then I shared some interesting links in Friday federations.

In other news, I’m taking a bit more of a back seat with the co-op over the next few months. I’m not leaving, just with everything else on I need to focus on other things and know that my colleagues have my back. Which is a great feeling.

Finally, I bought a bunch of books in the Verso sale. Their deals are so good, as you get the ebook and hard copy for the price you’d often pay just for the ebook. This time around I went for:

Next week, I’ll be working around the logistics of ensuring our two children get to various summer activities (football camp, church holiday club, etc.) while ensuring everything is going according to plan with MoodleNet.


Photo taken by me of a wonderful sign in a neighbours porch: “Watch out for the cat” (in Italian)

Weeknote 28/2019

As a result of supporting Buster Benson‘s work via Patreon, I’ve unexpectedly found myself on a Discord server with some very smart people. Happily, they also do weeknotes.

I really like the structure of Buster’s weeknotes. First off, each week has a name. Second, and I think this is the best part, he has a section where he looks to the week ahead and says “this week will be good if…”

With only three weeks to go until Team Belshaw goes on holiday, I’m thinking about routines I can get into when I return. I certainly haven’t got the mental or physical energy to make changes right now. It’s heads-down and get through the next little bit.

The reason I like routine is because it helps me control my physical and mental health. So the last couple of weeks haven’t been very helpful at all. I ended up back at hospital at the beginning of the week, convinced there was something seriously wrong with my ribs. They’re still hurting, but given the damage is actually muscular, I’m pleased to say the pain is easing off a bit.

The other thing is that it’s the time of the year where routines to do with my children’s school (and after-school) activities go out of the window. So I was at their sports days this week, there was a summer fayre, and a rain-soaked football tournament on Saturday.

Add in some travel for colleagues at work, end-of-term Scout business, and uncertainty around projects, and you get a heady cocktail guaranteed to give a routine-lover like me sleepless nights.

Anyway, at least everything is making progress, and no balls have yet been dropped. I’m really pleased that we’ve committed to MoodleNet supporting Free Cultural Works by default, and the clickable prototype for the new UI is pretty much done. I’ve also been writing/recording some good stuff for Thought Shrapnel.

So, deep breaths. Not much further to go. If I can ensure that the current 0.9.5-dev sprint completes as expected this week, then the MoodleNet team is set up for success before I go away. (See what I did there?)

Finally, I’m nearly finished reading a new novel by my very talented friend, Laura Hilliger. Entitled Maybe Zombies it’s not quite what you’d expect from the title, and is well worth a read. She’s also looking for a literary agent, if you know a good one?


Image created from a photo I took during a Photo Walk around Morpeth with Scouts on Wednesday.

Weeknote 27/2019

Last week I struggled a little bit with my routine given the pain I experienced with my ribs. I went to hospital on the Monday morning and was told that I’d bruised the muscular wall, but not the ribs themselves. Nevertheless, I was given a cocktail of codeine, ibuprofen and paracetamol to take for 10 days.

That meant no real exercise all week, which really affected me. Without my usual running, swimming, and going to the gym, I became a little lethargic and felt a bit down. I still can’t even do a press-up without pain shooting down the right-hand side of my body.

It also meant that I couldn’t go snorkelling with the Scouts on Wednesday night, something that I was really pleased I’d organised for them. Still, the sunset I witnessed while they were in the North Sea next to St Mary’s Lighthouse was incredible.

On the work front, though, the MoodleNet team managed to fix the problems we’d had with deploying v0.9.4 alpha. In addition, we’ve continued work on the new user interface, and change around some of the ways we work. I’m not a big fan of implementing approaches other than those that work in your particular context. For us, that means outlining everything in a Google Doc, and linking it to issues in the Moodle Tracker.

Due to the pain in my ribs, I was close to not going away at the weekend to finish off my Quality Mountain Days. However, I didn’t want to let down Tom, who had agreed to go with me. I’m pleased I went, and enjoyed our walks and talks. You can read more about that here.

This week I’m taking a half-day today, and then Wednesday as my non-Moodle day. The rest of the time I’m ensuring the MoodleNet team feel supported and have no blockers so that we can release a major update before I go on holiday in a month’s time!

Weeknote 25/2019

This week started with a camping and walking trip that seems a long time ago now. I wrote that up here.

The rest of the week seemed to be an attempt to get back into a routine, both in terms of work but also in terms of exercise. I find that when my exercise regime (such as it is) gets out of whack, it has a knock-on effect on what I eat, how I sleep, and therefore how productive I am.

A highlight was backwoods cooking with the Scouts on Wednesday, which is always enjoyable.

I’m pretty much back to normal now, although I just want to forget last week, as much as possible really, and move on. It wasn’t awful, just nothing to write home about. And I’d like to use my energy on making sure next week is better.

Weeknote 24/2019

This week has felt long. I can’t believe it hasn’t actually been a fortnight, actually. The main excitement in the Belshaw household over the past few days has been taking delivery of one of these, which has meant completely re-configuring our lounge. The idea is that everything isn’t arranged around the television. We’ll see.

I’ve been working on three different things for Moodle this week:

  1. MoodleNet — the resource-centric social network for educators. I’ve been helping Ivan, our UX designer and front-end developer map out a new, more ‘conversational’ interface. It needs to use educational content before sharing with the community.
  2. Sunsetting moodle.net — we need to shut down the existing service at moodle.net in a graceful way and it looks like I’m responsible for that! There’s a Moodle Tracker epic with sub-issues.
  3. P2P badges for informal recognition — I shared a proposal with the Culture Champs group on how we could use Open Badges internally, pointing out the difference between credentialing and recognition.

Excitingly, Mayel has been doing some research into using a version control system such as git for providing the ‘fork/remix/share’ approach we want to encourage with MoodleNet. We’re also closer to releasing v0.9.4 which will allow users to choose a username and reset their password.

Other than that, I’ve been tired. Mainly because I’ve been sleepwalking(!) and dealing with more life admin than usual. In a moment of temporary insanity I’ve booked a stay at the campsite outside the UK’s highest hostel, so I’ll be carrying a tent while I walk on Sunday, camping at 1550ft, and then walking on Monday too.

I’m still writing every day for Thought Shrapnel, which I’m really rather proud of. No matter what people think of the content (although they seem to like it!) I find it a very valuable discipline to read enough to then be able to write something every day with at least six links in it.

Next week I’m working Tuesday to Friday on MoodleNet stuff after my (hopefully not ill-advised) camping/walking trip…

Weeknote 23/2019

This week has been much more enjoyable than last, after which I had a bit of a whinge. It’s been book-ended by two things I really enjoy doing: going for a long walk, and going out for food with my wife.

On Monday morning, I really was not in the mood for work, and had this almost primal desire to see the sea. So I re-arranged my working days and, as my wife had the car, decided to walk to the beach and back again. The caveat? I had to fit it all in between dropping off and picking my daughter from school.

Route from where I live (Morpeth) to the beach

As you can see from the Google Maps route above, I was pushing it to fit it in between 9am and 3pm. In the end, though, I managed it, and it proved to be a very enjoyable 18 mile (30km) walk!

This week has been an interesting one for my work on MoodleNet. It’s not all just fun and innovation when running a project like this. There’s compliance and legacy infrastructure to deal with, too. Happily, I’m pleased that the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) we’ve put out for community consultation is reasonably clear and interesting to read!

I’ve been working with Ivan, our UX designer and front-end developer on taking the MoodleNet user interface in a different direction. It’s an iterative approach, but I like the way it’s heading.

As usual, I wrote a bunch of things for Thought Shrapnel that are only available to supporters until next week. The one with the best title is probably There’s no viagra for enlightenment and the one I enjoyed writing most is What is no good for the hive is no good for the bee.

On Monday evening, Dai and I managed to record another episode of the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast. Episode 118 was entitled ‘Raising Digital Citizens’ where we discussed research in schools, walking long distances, screen time, digital citizenship, tech veganism, fully automated luxury communism, and more!

On Friday, Moodle colleagues in the Perth and Barcelona offices went out to celebrate the release of Moodle 3.7. We remote workers were given an allowance to take a friend or family member out for pizza, so I took my wife to BOX.PIZZA nestled deep in the Northumbrian countryside!

Next week I’m at home all week, working Monday to Thursday on Moodle things.

Weeknote 22/2019

I don’t know why I don’t just book time off every half-term. Unlike the summer holidays, where the kids get into a rhythm of entertaining themselves, as a parent you always feel ‘on-call’ when they have just one week off school.

Thankfully, my wife was around, but I felt like my work was an inconvenience to family life this week. And, after all, why do we work? Part of it is to have the money to spend time with your family doing fun things. I don’t feel like I enjoyed the fruits of my labour this week.

There were good reasons why I didn’t book holidays this week, though. One of them was because it was Product Management Planning Week at Moodle. These have been a bit sporadic since their inception just after I joined the organisation at the start of last year. So it was good that I got to spend some time, albeit virtually, with fellow Product Managers.

In terms of MoodleNet, the product whose development I’m overseeing, this has been the second week for Karen and James, our new backend developers. They’re getting into the swing of things and it’s good to see so much conversation happening between them and Mayel, our Technical Architect, on team Telegram channels! I’ve also been spending some time with Ivan, our designer and front-end developer, about taking MoodleNet in a different direction in terms of user interface.

Back on the home fromt, my wife’s sister and family were up last weekend. They’re so much more chilled-out than our family, which tends to schedule all the things and treat everything as a competition. Sometimes you need a welcome encouragement just to relax.

Other than that, it’s been good to see support come in via Open Collective for We Are Open community projects like Badge Wiki. We’re planning to launch a forum soon for the discussion of badges, among other things. This will go under the umbrella of our ‘Learning Fractal’ sub-brand, which we’re currently using only for our newsletter.

Finally, I took the opportunity of some spare hours on Friday while my son was at trials for the Newcastle Eagles academy to go to the Laing Art Gallery. I’ve been trying to carve out time to see Chris Killip‘s photos of the decline of shipbuilding on the Tyne since reading about the exhibition in The Guardian earlier this year. The photos are amazing and the story is a sad but evocative one.

Next week, I’m getting back into the regime of taking Fridays as my non-Moodle day. I’ll miss having my week split in two, but on the other hand it should give me more scope to get up some mountains and get 20 Quality Mountain Days under my belt!

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