Category: Weeknotes (page 1 of 30)

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!

Weeknote 21/2019

This week has been one of adjustments, for a couple of reasons.

First, my wife is back doing supply teaching, meaning that I have to be more flexible in my working arrangements so that I can drop off and pick up my daughter from school.

Second, two new people joined the MoodleNet team this week, so we’ve take the opportunity to shake things up a bit. Other than me, everyone else on the team will soon be doing 2.5 days per week. So we’ve agreed to have team meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, doing the bulk of our work together between those times.

This week, however, I was already committed to a co-op day on Wednesday with my We Are Open colleagues. It was enjoyable, even though we were talking about hard things like money. We’ve put a call out for people and organisations to fund Badge Wiki, which you can read about on our blog. Thanks to those who have already stepped up!

Other than that, I’ve helped ship MoodleNet v0.9.3 which is looking good, said goodbye to Alex Castaño, hello to Karen Kleinbauerů and James Laver (our new backend developers), done some planning for future releases, and produced a report for the rest of the Moodle Management team.

After a three month hiatus due to playing the magnificent Red Dead Redemption 2 together, Dai Barnes and I have finally got around to recording another episode of the TIDE podcast. Of course, it didn’t quite go to plan and Dai was called away to deal with a pupil (he lives and works at a boarding school) about halfway through the recording.

I’ve been doing plenty of other stuff as well, including writing for Thought Shrapnel every day (are you supporting that yet?), going geocaching with Scouts, taking my daughter to her first swimming gala, booking a family holiday to Iceland in December to see the northern lights, getting better at FIFA 19 Seasons, finishing Jamie Bartlett’s excellent book The People vs Tech, having my last Moodle coaching session (all of the Management team have had them), and trying to fit in daily exercise.

Next week, it’s half-term, and as I hinted at above I’m moving my non-Moodle from Wednesday to Friday. That means I’ve got a glorious Bank Holiday weekend with the in-laws, before spending Tuesday to Thursday planning with the rest of the Moodle Product Managers. I’m not sure whether that sounds intense or pretty chilled.

Weeknote 20/2019

This week I’ve been continuing to go through the hiring process for a new MoodleNet backend developer. Recruitment isn’t easy, particularly when you’re trying to do it quickly, you have to co-ordinate with colleagues in Australia, the people you’re hiring are in different countries, and you’re attending two conferences while doing so.

Despite that, we’ve managed to hire not one, but two backend developers. I’m delighted with both of them, so keep your eyes on the MoodleNet blog for more details!

I’ve also been at the Thinking Digital conference this week, which of all the events I go to, has to be my favourite. That’s quite the statement to make, I know, but it’s uniformly fantastic, and I purchase my Early Bird ticket as soon as they come out. I left, as I always do, feeling inspired about the tech as a force for change in the world.

Recently, I’ve pivoted Thought Shrapnel into being something I write an article for on a daily basis. I’m really enjoying that discipline, releasing what I write first to those who support me on Patreon, and then a week later making the articles available on the open web.

I wrote one post for this blog about the effect of changing the ‘launcher’ on my Android phone at the weekend. You can read that here.

Next week, as a result of the conference, I’ve got an invitation to speak at Newcastle University Business School on the future of technology. I’ll also be onboarding the new members of the MoodleNet team and collaborating with my We Are Open co-op buddies.


Photo of the River Tyne taken by me on Thursday. More of my images can be found on Pixelfed.

Weeknote 19/2019

I’m writing this from sunny Lisbon, where I’ve been at the Creative Commons Summit. I haven’t got the energy to capture all of the things I’ve seen and learned over the past few days, so check out my tweets from the event and the recording of a Virtually Connecting session I contributed to. Perhaps I’ll discuss it during the next episode of the TIDE podcast, as well.

It was great to catch up with Bryan Mathers, whose session on The Fabulous Remixer Machine was excellent. I used his ‘stamp’ remixer to create the image accompanying this post! I took photos of Lisbon too, some of which are here.

This is actually my second trip this week, as I took my son to the Lake District on Sunday evening. On Bank Holiday Monday we climbed Helvellyn and other peaks, as detailed in this post.

It’s actually felt like three trips. You can’t fly direct from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Lisbon, and I refused to pay the £350 that KLM wanted to fly via Amsterdam. Instead, I used routes recommended to me by Skyscanner to book two Ryanair flights on the way out (via Dublin) and flights via a couple of different airlines on the way back (via Faro). I took the opportunity of a five-hour layover in Dublin on the way out to make a quick visit to the Chester Beatty Library, including sampling the wonderful food on offer at its Silk Road Café.

In terms of Moodle work, over and above making connections and learning at the CC Summit, we’ve released MoodleNet v0.9.2 alpha. We’ve also been interviewing for a new backend developer.

I’m leaving Lisbon tomorrow (Sunday) and get back home in the evening. Next week I’ve got another conference in the form of Thinking Digital. It’s always one of my favourite conferences, which is handy as it’s held at The Sage Gateshead, which is a lot closer to home than some events I go to!

Where are the weeknotes, Doug?

Since publishing my last weeknote at the beginning of March, I’ve published precisely three posts here. It’s funny how, when you get out of a routine, it’s difficult to get it started again. I’m thinking not only of my neglect of my weeknote duties over the past few weeks, but essentially giving up learning Spanish earlier this year as my ‘streak’ on Duolingo came to an end.

I’ve been busy on three fronts over the last couple of months:

  1. Thought Shrapnel — I gave up composing my weekly newsletter for Lent, but ended up spent a long time thinking and researching and writing so I could launch Thought Shrapnel Daily for supporters last week.
  2. Scouts — after stepping up as an Assistant Leader for one of the local groups, a lot of the responsibility has ended up falling on me to organise the programme, etc.
  3. MoodleNet — it’s my day job, sure, but ends up eating into thinking time outside of those hours too.

Meanwhile, subscribers to the TIDE podcast may be wondering why there haven’t been any episodes since the end of February. That’s easy: Dai and I have been playing a lot of Red Dead Redemption 2, one of the greatest games ever created. Instead of pontificating on edtech and the state of the world, we’ve been involved in rooftop shootouts in Western towns. I even streamed some of our gameplay on Twitch.

You know, we keep ourselves busy and feel guilty when we’re not. But, as Caterina Fake points out in a wonderful interview, we should spend some time cultivating our inner life. It’s difficult to do that when everything’s dictated by your calendar and to-do list.

Part of what keeps us busy are tasks that we invent for ourselves. I know that Thought Shrapnel Daily is something I’ve invented that takes hours of my time each week, but these have previously been hours I’ve spent checking Twitter and other social networks. It’s interesting that, when I talk about social networks with friends and colleagues, they feel the same malaise about professional social networking that I do. Perhaps MoodleNet will help with some of that!

It’s now conference season, and I was MC, chaired sessions, presented, and ran a workshop at MoodleMoot UK & Ireland the week before last. Then this week I’ve been at the CoTech Spring Gathering. I’m at home this next week, then I’m off to Lisbon for the Creative Commons Summit. The week after, it’s the Thinking Digital conference.

Now that I’m back in the swing with Thought Shrapnel, I’ll be aiming to resurrect my weeknotes, too. I compose them internally at Moodle as well, and in both situations, people say they’re useful. If only more people took the time to tell people what they’ve been up to.

Weeknote 09/2019

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #334 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. It was entitled, ‘Being where the rubber meets the road is… tyring’ and was, as ever, made possible via those who support me on Patreon.
  • Recording, editing and releasing Episode 116 of the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast with my co-host Dai Barnes. We entitled this episode ‘A Climate of Safety’ and discussed biohacking, games and learning mechanics, YouTube and suicide prevention, capitalism, climate change, SolarPunk, foldable displays, and more!
  • Working on the MoodleNet project:
  • Being invested as an Assistant Scout Leader and starting my Wood Badge training.
  • Getting our 12 year-old son ready for his first skiing trip with the school.
  • Discussing upcoming consultancy work with a potential client for the co-op.

Next week, I’m at home working on MoodleNet Mon/Tues and Thurs/Fri. I’ll be available on Wednesday morning (GMT) if you want to talk something through for half an hour. Book a slot here!


Photo taken by me of Morpeth Chantry on Friday

Weeknote 08/2019

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #333 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. It was entitled, ‘Bad puns are how eye roll’ and was, as ever, made possible via those who support me on Patreon.
  • Taking Monday and Tuesday as holiday. As a family we visited Jorvik Viking Centre, Magna Science Adventure Centre, and Fountains Abbey, which were all great! In fact, I reckon visiting Jorvik as a nine year-old possibly kindled my interest in history.
  • Spending Wednesday doing half a day for Moodle and half as a consultancy day. I spoke to a couple of people via my new surgery slots and really enjoyed those conversations (community building and the history of networked scholarship!) Once again, I’m only available in the morning next Wednesday, so book your slot if you want to catch me!
  • Working on the MoodleNet project:
    • Sending out the final survey for the first initial testing period. We’ve had good feedback so far, and we’re looking forward to the second testing period starting next week.
    • Continuing to triage all the suggestions coming in from testers through Changemap.
    • Adding more details to our upcoming sprints towards the beta launch at the UK & Ireland MoodleMoot in April.
    • Spending Thursday and Friday in Barcelona with Gry Stene and Martin Dougiamas discussing strategy. I also discussed data protection with Carlo Polizzi, and hung out with other Moodle colleagues. There was a general strike on Thursday, which was interesting to experience.
  • Encouraged by the interactions within our new Slack-based book club. We were reading the second chapter of of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism and it’s not too late to join us if you’re interested!
  • Putting together things for Thought Shrapnel:

Next week, I’m at home all week working on MoodleNet Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.


Photo taken by me in Barcelona just before sunset on Friday.

Weeknote 07/2019

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #332 of my Thought Shrapnel newsletter. It was entitled, ‘On social media’ and was, as ever, made possible via those who support me on Patreon.
  • Taking Wednesday again as my consultancy day, and talking to a three people via my new surgery slots. Two of the conversations were about Open Badges and the other one was about digital equity. I’m only available in the morning next Wednesday, so book your slot now!
  • Working on the MoodleNet project:
    • Pushing out an update which has received lots of thumbs-up from testers!
    • Sending out another MoodleNet survey, which led to some very interesting answers to the question of “how would you describe MoodleNet to a friend or colleague?”
    • Continuing to triage all the suggestions coming in from testers through Changemap
    • Getting to grips with Moodle Tracker for defining MoodleNet epics and releases. We’ve also been kicking out random people adding comments…
    • Sorting out pagination on the frontend as well as the backend.
    • Connecting to a live Q&A about MoodleNet as part of the national conference of the Swiss e-Learning Community of Higher Education Institutions.
    • Continuing to figure out MoodleNet security bounties.
    • Discussing approaches to MoodleNet’s integration with Moodle Core (thanks Sander!)
    • Preparing next week’s final survey for the first round of testers, and getting things ready for the 143 testers involved in the second round of testing.
  • Enjoying the experience of reading the introduction and first chapter of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism as part of our new Slack-based book club. There’s still time to join if you’re interested!
  • Writing about the demise of Digitalme and following that up by listing 10 platforms for issuing Open Badges.
  • Putting together things for Thought Shrapnel:

Next week, I’m going away for a couple of days with my family and taking Monday and Tuesday off work. Then on Wednesday, I’m doing half a day consultancy and half a day for Moodle. Thursday and Friday I’ll be spending in Barcelona for quick trip to the Moodle Spain office!


Photo taken by me at Druridge Bay on Wednesday.

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