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!)
Note: This is a slightly modified version of a post I made to the Moodle HQ forum earlier today as part of our Wellbeing Week.
According to Heads Up, an Australian organisation focused on mental health at work, there are nine attributes of a healthy workplace:
- Prioritising mental health
- Trusting, fair & respectful culture
- Open & honest leadership
- Good job
- Workload management
- Employee development
- Inclusion & influence
- Work/Life balance
- Mental health support
Just over a decade ago, I burned myself out while teaching, spending a few weeks signed off work and on antidepressants. It was undoubtedly the lowest point of my life. The experience has made me realise how fragile mental health can be, as other members of staff were struggling too. Ultimately, it was our workplace environment that was to blame, not individual human failings.
These days, I’m pleased to say that, most of the time everything is fine. Just like anyone who identifies strongly with the work they’re doing, it can be difficult to put into practice wisdom such as “prioritising family” and “putting health first”. Good places to work, however, encourage you to do this, which is part of what Wellbeing Week at Moodle is all about.
Currently, I work remotely for Moodle four days per week. I travel regularly, but have been based from home in various roles for the past six years. While others might find it lonely, boring, or too quiet, I find that, overall, it suits my temperament.
When I worked in offices and classrooms, I had an idea of remote working that was completely different from the reality of it. Being based in somewhere other than your colleagues can be stressful, as an article on Hacker Noon makes very clear. I haven’t experienced all of the following issues listed in the article, but I know people who have.
- Dehumanisation: “communication tends to stick to structured channels”
- Interruptions and multitasking: “being responsive on the chat accomplishes the same as being on time at work in an office: it gives an image of reliability”
- Overworking: “this all amounts for me to the question of trust: your employer trusted you a lot, allowing you to work on your own terms , and in exchange, I have always felt compelled to actually work a lot more than if I was in an office.”
- Being a stay at home dad: “When you spend a good part of your time at home, your family sees you as more available than they should.”
- Loneliness: “I do enjoy being alone quite a lot, but even for me, after two weeks of only seeing colleagues through my screen, and then my family at night, I end up feeling quite sad. I miss feeling integrated in a community of pairs.”
- Deciding where to work every day: “not knowing where I will be working everyday, and having to think about which hardware I need to take with me”
- You never leave ‘work’: “working at home does not leave you time to cool off while coming back home from work”
- Career risk: “working remotely makes you less visible in your company”
Wherever you spend the majority of your time, the physical environment only goes so far. That’s why the work the Culture Champs are doing at Moodle HQ is so important. Feeling supported to do a manageable job in a trusting and respectful culture is something independent of where your chair happens to be located.
So, I’d like to encourage everyone reading this to open up about your mental health. Talk about it with your family and friends, of course, but also to your colleagues. How are you feeling?
Image by Johan Blomström used under a Creative Commons license
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:
- Inform individuals what that data will be used for and how long we will be storing it.
- 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