Tag: MoodleNet

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.

Using Twitter as a lens for some thoughts on launching products

This week, several people have asked me whether I’m ‘nervous’ about the first test of MoodleNet, a new open social media platform for educators, focussed on professional development and open content. We’ve invited 100 people (50 English testers, 50 Spanish) to have a look and give us some feedback over a three-week period starting from next Tuesday.

To answer their question: no, I’m not. That’s not because of arrogance or misplaced optimism, it’s because of something that Baltasar Gracián talks about in The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence, a book I read from every morning:

Don’t arouse excessive expectations from the start. Everything initially highly praised is commonly discredited when it subsequently fails to live up to expectation. Reality can never match our expectations, because it’s easy to imagine perfection, and very difficult to achieve it. Imagination weds desire and then conceives things far greater than they actually are… Good beginnings serve to arouse curiosity, not to guarantee the outcome. Things turn out better when the reality exceeds our initial idea and is greater than we anticipated. (Baltasar Gracián)

I think we could sum that up with ‘managing expectations’. It’s kind of the opposite of Silicon Valley hype, and useful when you’re developing a product for the long-term.

Talking of Silicon Valley, let’s have a quick look at what Twitter looked like when it launched (start at 09:05):

They were testing a value proposition, something like: “Do people want to tell the world what they’re up to in text-message sized updates?”

The answer, of course, turned out to be in the affirmative. But it took a while. I joined Twitter in February 2007, a few months after it launched. I loved it and, as I was teaching at the time, ran Twitter workshops for my colleagues. Most of them appreciated my enthusiasm, but didn’t think it would catch on.

Twitter took about five years to go mainstream. Here’s a potted history of that time period from the Buffer blog:

  • July 2006: ‘Twttr’ is available to the public
  • October 2006: Sign up for Twitter without your phone number
  • May 2007: You can block others and Twitter gets a mobile site
  • May 2007: Twitter gets an @replies column
  • August 2007: Twitter Profile Search goes live
  • September 2007: Tracking Twitter alias #Hashtags goes live
  • September 2008: Twitter gets Trending Topics
  • March 2009: Twitter introduces “Suggested Users”
  • October 2009: Twitter launches Twitter Lists
  • November 2009: Twitter unveils the new native RT function
  • March 2010: You can now add your location to your Tweets
  • April 2010: Twitter launches “Promoted Tweets”
  • September 2010: Twitter introduces the “New Twitter”
  • June 2011: Twitter launches its own link shortening service

So let’s just stand back and look at this for a moment. The functionality that we would say was pretty core to Twitter took a good while to roll out. Another interesting fact, not really highlighted in the Buffer post, is that many of these involved Twitter responding to what users were doing or had invented.

For example, people were using ‘RT’ to manually retweet posts way before November 2009. Meanwhile, hashtags were an invention of Chris Messina, and initially rejected by Twitter as too nerdy. Users who like what you’re trying to achieve will help you reach that goal.

Before Twitter became a publicly-traded company in 2013 it was much more focused on the ecosystem it was creating. One of the best things about early Twitter was that there was a huge range of clients you could use to access the service. In fact, the ‘pull-to-refresh‘ functionality that’s in almost every mobile app these days was invented by a third-party Twitter client.

Returning to MoodleNet, the reason it’s taken a year to get to this point is because of all of the preparation we’ve done, and all of the other kinds of testing we’ve done up to this point. So this is just the next step in a long journey.

Our value proposition is: “Do educators want to join communities to curate collections of resources?” The answer might be negative. In that case, we’ll go back to the drawing board. My hunch, though, borne out through tens of hours of conversation and experimentation, is that there’s something in this, and it’s worth pursuing.

All in all, I’m excited about this next step and looking forward to getting user feedback on the fantastic work my team have done.


Image: sketch of early Twitter taken from a 2018 tweet 

The fate of private social networks

I knew this had been coming for the last few years, really, but today I discovered that Path, the social network I use with my family, is shutting down. We’ve been using it since 2010 to share photos of our children growing up, and to keep each other up-to-date with family life.

Last year, I started paying for Path, as a small effort towards making it sustainable. Obviously not enough people were doing so. To be honest, the value proposition for paid versus free accounts wasn’t exactly awesome. After all, there’s only so many sticker packs you can use!

So my family will be looking for something that replaces Path. This turns out to be something that’s both of personal and professional interest to me at the moment, as I’m leading the MoodleNet project.

My first port of call when I’m looking for an alternative to some software is alternativeto.net. Their crowdsourced list of apps that could replace Path doesn’t quite do the job, unfortunately. I’ve been trying to think about why that is, so fired up Google Slides and created image at the top of this post. You can remix it if you want.

My point here is to show that there’s many kinds of social interactions. I’m focusing on what my family uses, so haven’t put MoodleNet on there, but if I had, I think we’d be looking at it being right in the middle. The small grey arrows show the direction of travel I think that each app is, or has been, on.

It would be easy to look at this and conclude that we’re living in a world where everything’s moving to being more synchronous and public, but I’m not sure that’s true. Ideally, I reckon we want the option to communicate with one another in all four quadrants here.

What do you think? Is there anything out there which would replace Path? We’ve been trying out a private Google+ community, but it’s somehow not as… fun.


Update: after a quick dalliance with Google+ we’re currently trying out Vero.

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.

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