Category: Weeknotes (page 1 of 32)

Weeknote 41/2019

Last weekend, I greatly enjoyed the first of three weekends as part of a Mountain Leader course I’m undertaking. In the first session, before we got out and about in the Peak District, we were asked why we’d decided to take the course. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it’s basically for three reasons:

  1. To have a significant hobby/interest that isn’t screen-related
  2. So that I can take my family up into the mountains and feel like I know what I’m doing
  3. As an excuse to get away for the weekend by myself

The third of these is something I’m happier to admit as of late. It’s OK to know oneself.

I had another therapy session this week, in which we started exploring my social anxiety. I’m (currently) wired differently from people who are nervous about public speaking but who are in their element at informal gatherings. I avoid parties and anywhere that involves unstructured interaction, to be honest, and so I’m working on that with my therapist.

This week, I worked 4.5 days on MoodleNet, as I ‘owed’ Moodle half a day from last week. While I usually take Wednesdays off and break the working week into two halves, October will be different. I’m taking Mondays off this month as I want to have recovery time from the Mountain Leader weekends, and it’s Hannah’s (my wife) birthday this coming Monday.

Things are going well with MoodleNet, I’d say. The team has got into a great rhythm, and I’m very much looking forward to Mayel returning from parental leave next week. We’re now very much in the run-up to the Global Moot in Barcelona next month, where we’ll be launching the MoodleNet beta. There’s plenty to do before that, but we’re in good shape.

I enjoyed speaking with 10 Moodle community members this week about resource uploading, which led to this blog post. I’m pleased that outline plans for MoodleNet cloud hosting are taking shape, too. I want it to be really easy to set up an instance.

On Thursday evening I took my son to an open evening at the local high school. We have first, middle, and high schools in Northumberland, which is unusual for the UK, but also awesome. I went through this system and have taught in the ‘usual’ (primary/secondary) way of organising schools, and have to say I prefer the tripartite approach. It’s crazy to me that I have a son who’s almost ready to attend high school, particularly as I remember his age so vividly.

I’m currently reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and have loved bingeing on the second series of Motherland on BBC iPlayer with Hannah. If you have school-age kids, and particularly if you live in the UK, you’ll find it hilarious.

Next week, I’m celebrating Hannah’s birthday and working at home, before heading to the Lake District for what could be an interesting weekend. And when I say ‘interesting’ I mean tough. And when I say ‘tough’ I mean cold.

Weeknote 40/2019

One thing I couldn’t talk about last week was the surprise celebration we had planned for my father’s 70th birthday. We went to The Treehouse Restaurant at The Alnwick Garden, which has been the venue of several Belshaw family celebrations over the years.

Last Sunday, I drove down to Oundle for the memorial service to celebrate the life of Dai Barnes. The eulogy I gave can be found here. It was great to see the (huge!) school chapel packed out with family, friends, colleagues, and students.

After a busy weekend, I finally succumbed to the cold that has affected most of the rest of my family. That’s meant a strange pattern to my working week, as I’ve been trying to shake off the man flu. I ended up working full days on Tuesday and Friday, and half a day on Thursday.

On the MoodleNet front everyone’s just cracking on with the stuff that needs doing. We could do with some more help on the front end, and we need to organise a basic security/privacy audit, but that’s all in hand. I wrote a post entitled Beyond the beta: revisiting the MoodleNet whitepaper and looking to the future and talked with a bunch of community members about resource uploading.

I deactivated my @dajbelshaw Twitter account on Wednesday, and then on Thursday realised it was probably more useful just to rebrand it as ‘Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel’. I’m just auto-posting stuff to Twitter now as I’m kind of done with that rage machine.

This weekend is the first of three as part of a Mountain Leader course I’m starting. I’ll be in the Peak District, then the Lake District, and finally Snowdonia. There’s some wild camping to do, but thankfully not this weekend as I’m still feeling a bit rough…


Photo of gravestone taken by me in a Morpeth churchyard. It made me smile that ‘THIS STONE’ is all that remains legible!

Weeknote 39/2019

This week seems to have gone quickly, which is a good thing. It means I’ve been in a state of flow. Having Wednesday as my ‘day off’ to get life admin done and spend some time by myself really suits me. In fact, the top piece of advice I give to people seeking greater ‘work/life balance’ is for them to go down to four days per week, if they can.

It’s important to note that ‘spending time by myself’ is different to ‘working alone’. With the latter, what I’m working on is (at least partly) dictated by other people. Also, of course, while I may be physically alone, in 2019 the chances of me being digitally alone are non-existent.


I began therapy this week, which is not something that younger Doug would have thought he’d be admitting to, aged 38. I’m delighted to say it went really well. We need to dig deeper in further sessions, but it turns out that the ‘anxiety issues’ I thought were causing me very specific problems may actually be highly-repressed feelings of self-doubt.

Those who don’t know me very well may be shaking their heads at this point, while I’m sure that those who do will be nodding along sagely. Sorry for everything, etc.


Work on MoodleNet is progressing well and we seem to be still on track for the beta release at the Global Moot in November. I’ve worked on a bunch of things this week, mostly writing, organising, and researching. After a team discussion I captured some more thoughts on MoodleNet metadata, as well giving an update on likes and boosts in MoodleNet, and updating the MoodleNet whitepaper.

You know, it’s absolutely true what they say: the more intuitive something feels to a user, the more thought has gone into design by the team responsible for it.

I’ve also been planning for beyond the MoodleNet beta and writing in spaces currently available only to my team. I’ll share that thinking more widely soon. (Hint: it includes McLuhan’s tetrads and an edtech pencil metaphor.)

There’s always the management-y stuff to do when you lead a team, and this week has been no different. I’ve provided input into the (WIP) Moodle Product Management framework, put together a proposal for my role in 2020, and discussed some options for ‘MoodleNet on MoodleCloud‘ with various people.


I’ve now lost over 2.5kg (5.5lbs) in weight since our summer holiday, which is partly getting back to a routine that doesn’t revolve around ice-cream and beer, but also partly because I’ve got back into swimming again. That’s important at this time of year, when the changeable weather makes it less likely that I’ll go for a run.

Talking of the weather, my SAD light came out this week. As I’ve said many times, when my parents bought it for me a few years ago, I was beyond skeptical. However, it’s a revelation and I now wouldn’t be without it for the Autumn/Winter months!


Finally, I’ve spent a lot of this week with tears streaming down my face. It’s the memorial service for my friend Dai Barnes this weekend, and I’m determined to get to the end of the eulogy I’m giving without falling to pieces. Of course, being emotional in these situations is entirely appropriate, but I owe it to Dai and everyone present to save my tears for when I’ve finished. Wish me luck!


Photograph taken by me at Hirst Welfare, Ashington, Northumberland

Weeknote 38/2019

This week I’ve been:

  • Striking as part of the Global Climate Strike. We took the kids out of school and through to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to give them their first sense of activism. We made signs and everything. Awesomely, Moodle employees were encouraged to join in the strikes.
  • Writing an updated version of the eulogy I’m going to give at the memorial for Dai Barnes next weekend. It can never capture all of his different facets, but I hope it gives people there some insight into them.
  • Attending a FabRiders Network-Centric Resources online session, which made great use of Zoom’s breakout rooms feature.
  • Continuing leading the work around MoodleNet. Mayel, our technical architect, is on parental leave, but Ivan (designer and front-end developer) is back, and we’re in pretty good shape at the moment. I’ve been talking with Moodle Partners about further development of the Moodle LMS plugin that our team prototyped.
  • Writing my usual Thought Shrapnel posts: All is petty, inconstant, and perishable, and Saturday strikings. I also wrote a rare post on on my Ambiguiti.es blog.

Next week is my last at home before a fair bit of travel between now and the end of November. Some of that is for a Mountain Leader course I’m going on (three weekends in different parts of the country), some for work, and some for what I’d loosely call ‘professional development’ (MozFest!)

Weeknote 37/2019

I used to employ a bullet-point format for these weeknotes but that seems to have gone by the wayside since starting my Friday roundups on Thought Shrapnel of interesting things I’ve read. I guess I don’t like writing two bullet-point based posts within a 24-hour period…


Anyway, it feels like a golden age on the internet for newsletters and podcasts at the moment. Which is to say that, sadly, it’s not particularly a golden age for blogging and other forms of social media. Most of the good stuff arrives in your ears and inbox rather than the open web.

In an attempt to force myself to use bullets, here’s three newsletters that you should check out. Interestingly, they’re all ones I pay for via Substack:

I’ve already listed a bunch of my favourite podcasts in the show notes to Microcast #072.


This was quite a quiet week, all things considered. The rest of the MoodleNet team apart from James were otherwise occupied with holidays, moving house, or adding a small human to their family!


After making an appointment related to stuff I was discussing last week, I got a chance to talk to someone Trained In These Things. It’s not like any of this is a mystery to me; I put the anxiety I experienced from my teaching career into a box, which now, almost a decade later, is being triggered by my involvement with Scouts. So after a quick chat, I’ve been referred for some CBT. Fingers crossed.

I’d told our Group Scout Leader that I was planning to step down after Christmas, but decided that it was actually in my best interests to do so immediately. While it made me feel guilty for the lack of notice, they’ve got enough leaders to cope, and it should help me get things sorted out.


In other news, this week’s Thought Shrapnel article seemed to be well-received. I also enjoyed putting together my latest microcast about privacy and children’s use of technology. Oh, and I wrote a short thing about why capitalism needs people to be upset about ‘prizes for all’.

Two more bits of news. First, the family of Dai Barnes have asked me to deliver a eulogy at his memorial service. It’s a huge honour to do so, and I’m grateful to Eylan Ezekiel and Dai’s brothers for their help with this. Second, I’ve managed to squeeze myself onto the last ‘split weekend’ Mountain Leader course I could go on this year. We start in the Peak District next month, and I’m very much looking forward to it.


Finally, I’d deleted Red Dead Redemption 2 after Dai passed away, but my brother-in-law Sean bought the game specially to play with me. It was a lovely gesture and very much appreciated, so I’ve reinstalled it and been showing him the ropes. It won’t take him long to be much better than me, as Dai was. (I’ve been playing the FIFA series of games for 25 years and still get rinsed by nine year-olds.)


Next week, I’m at home with Wednesday off to get the eulogy written and life admin done. All of the MoodleNet team apart from Mayel will be back, so it’s time to crack on with getting everything ready for the beta launch in November!


Photo taken on a family walk at Druridge Bay.

Weeknote 36/2019

It’s all been happening this week: back-to-school, wedding anniversary, publishing the very last episode of a podcast I published with my late friend, Dai Barnes, and… referring myself to counselling for anxiety issues.

I don’t want to shy away from talking about the latter issue, as I know for a fact that it’s something that affects many people. Men in particular are bad at discussing it, due to some misplaced notion of manhood whereby your inner life is all plain sailing.

In my case, I’m pretty sure my issues, which come and go, seem to be triggered by things relating to my teaching career. I’ve now not been a teacher (nine years) for longer than I ever was one (seven years), so it goes to show how much this stuff can have an effect on you.

Anyway, a good friend of mine had some real breakthroughs around an unrelated issue through counselling, which was a prompt for me to get something done. I guess the grief I felt with Dai’s passing was the proximate cause for getting something done about it, but it’s been brewing for a while.

In other news, as of today, I’ve been married to my wonderful wife, Hannah, for 16 glorious years. We took the opportunity earlier this week to go away for a night and had a thoroughly great time. It’s part of the marriage journey to see people at their best and their worst, and she’s seen a bit of both this week. I’d like to publicly thank her for her love and patience.

From a productivity point of view, some forms of anxiety can make you a dream employee. So long as it’s not the stifling and debilitating kind, your brain constantly reminds you that things need doing and you’d better get them done sharpish otherwise the world’s going to end. It never does, of course, but weirdly my personal angst hasn’t been causing me professional issues.

I’ve got plenty done in the three days I worked on MoodleNet this week. Most notably, I created a new version of the overview slide deck we use to introduce the project, with an accompanying screencast. I also tidied up the MoodleNet wiki, creating a scenarios page and adding more detail to the roadmap.

In terms of Thought Shrapnel, I wrote an article which I was pretty pleased with (and for which I found the perfect image!) I also recorded a microcast and roundup of links I’ve found interesting this week. I’m taking a break from Twitter, so I won’t be posting links to my work there for a while.

Next week, I’m back to the usual routine of taking Wednesday as my non-Moodle day. We’re potentially going to be without three members of the team for various reasons (holiday, moving house, etc.) so it’ll perhaps be a quiet one.


Photo taken by me in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on Monday night. It turns out to be art by Prefab77 whose work is described as “fast, hard edged and stripped down, a dark world of Gangs, Goddesses and Groupies, woven into a pure, rock and rebellion”. Nice.

Weeknote 35/2019

You know that feeling after you come back from holiday and you let out a sigh and then get back to work? I did that again this week after a five-day long Bank Holiday weekend spent in Devon at my in-laws. We had a great time.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the work I do, as far as work goes. But like most people, I think, given the current state of the world, there’s plenty of other things we could be doing with our time. MoodleNet will help with some of that, but obliquely. It’s going to help a certain group of people (educators) better teach another group of people (learners) so that they can, hopefully, improve our world.

I’ve written an update on the MoodleNet blog about where we are with the project. I have no major concerns right now, although the timeline for testing federation has slipped a bit.

The thing that’s taken a lot of my brain space this week is getting out the last two ever episodes of the TIDE podcast, which I recorded with my late co-host Dai Barnes. I added an intro and edited out part of the original recording we made back in June to publish Episode 119: AirDrop Crossfire on Thursday. Next week, I’ll release a memorial episode that I recorded with the help of Eylan Ezekiel and many audio contributions from friends and listeners to TIDE.

So it’s been a quiet week: driving back from Devon, working four days for Moodle, editing two podcast episodes, producing stuff for Thought Shrapnel, and then dealing with some drama when my son had to go to hospital after an accident involving him attempting some parkour. He’s OK, thankfully.

Next week, it’s back-to-school week for my kids, including a new school building for our youngest on the far side of town. So some logistics to deal with there, as she’s (just!) too young to walk there alone. Other than that, I’m taking Monday off and then working on MoodleNet stuff Tuesday to Friday.


Header image: photo of some street art at a skate park in Honiton, Devon

Weeknote 34/2019

This week has been about getting back to work after our fantastic family holiday in New England. I’m used to the post-holiday blues, so mentally prepared for them this time around, taking things slowly on Monday and easing back into it.

Thankfully, it’s Bank Holiday weekend, so I can take a five-day holiday without having to take any leave. The joys of working a flexible four-day week!

There have been three main areas of activity for me this week:

1. MoodleNet

I returned a bit concerned that we weren’t going to make our (self-imposed, but widely-publicised) November deadline. That was because Mayel, MoodleNet’s Technical Architect will soon be taking a month’s paternity leave, and refactoring the backend code has taken longer than we thought. However, I’ve been pleased with Karen’s progress on federation and Ivan’s work on the new user interface. I think we’ll get there!

I focused on writing a lightweight spec document and updating Moodle Tracker issues this week, as well as the inevitable catch-up meetings and management duties. I’ve also published a blog post about MoodleNet’s draft user agreement and covenant for instance administrators.

2. Memorial TIDE episode

Earlier this week, I spoke with Eylan Ezekiel as we’re organising an episode of TIDE to celebrate Dai’s life. We’ve already started taking audio contributions, so please do consider adding yours.

Back in June, Dai and I recorded episode #119 of TIDE, but I never edited and released it, for a number of reasons. One of them was that it was interrupted by a couple of fire alarms at Dai’s school. Another was that I wittered on about anxiety to the interest of probably nobody.

Anyway, I’ve been listening back to what we recorded and I’m thinking of knocking it into shape to release as an episode. Dai says some pretty insightful things in it.

3. Thought Shrapnel

You know, I really do enjoy the work I do on Thought Shrapnel, and the new routine of posting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (with an email digest on Sundays) seems to be both sustainable and appreciated by subscribers!


Next week will be a short working week for me. I’ll be planning more for MoodleNet federation testing, and integration with Moodle LMS.

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.

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