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Moving on

Yesterday was my last contractual day at Moodle, as I’ve been using up my remaining annual leave since Friday 19th June. This post is for the record, as my post celebrating the release of v1.0 beta on the MoodleNet blog was taken down.

In late 2017 I was happily consulting with various organisations when I was approached by Moodle to lead a new project. The ‘brief’ was a couple of pages of notes with some general thoughts which I turned into a white paper. It detailed how Moodle’s existing moodle.net repository could become a federated social network and decentralised digital commons. So, in January 2018 I joined Moodle’s management team, working four days per week, and slowly building a talented (part-time) team.

The history of what the MoodleNet team achieved can be seen through the 2018 and 2019 retrospectives. I’d like to thank Mayel, Ivan, James, Karen, Ale, Antonis, and Kat for being amazing colleagues. It truly was a pleasure working alongside them. This year, the team ensured we released v1.0 beta and successfully integrated with Moodle LMS v3.9.

(As a quick aside, Moodle’s legal counsel has been kind enough to get in touch. They reminded me that my contract included a confidentiality clause which remains in force after it ends.)

In May 2020, I resigned. A few days later, there was some unrelated drama which involved a tweet from Moodle’s CEO which I wrote about in Weeknote 23/2020. What hasn’t been documented anywhere, and which I’m not going to go into here for the reason given above, is what subsequently happened internally at Moodle HQ. Suffice to say that all but one of the talented and committed MoodleNet team decided to quit.

There’s more I could say about what happens when organisations get external funding. I could talk about some of the mis-steps the team made while experimenting and innovating. I perhaps could even discuss psychological safety at work. Ultimately, though, once I’ve finished my course of therapy, I will look back on my time at Moodle with pride. The team we managed to assemble took MoodleNet from an idea through to something pretty amazing. I’m so pleased most of the team are exploring other avenues to continue working on it.

I learned a lot at Moodle and I’m looking forward to using the best of it in my work through We Are Open, the co-op I helped set up four years ago.

Onwards.


This post is Day 15 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com

Weeknote 20/2020

For people who read these weeknotes on a regular basis (hello mother!) I realise that I discuss things without readers necessarily having any idea what they might look or feel like.

So, despite there still being a number of bugs and errors to fix with MoodleNet, and despite the staging server being full of test content, I thought I’d just record a quick screencast walkthrough.

Five things to bear in mind:

  1. MoodleNet is federated, meaning that you can search for communities, collections, and resources across instances.
  2. Communities curate collections of resources, and engage in discussions.
  3. Resources may be added to collections via link (like a bookmark) or via upload (with a Creative Commons license)
  4. MoodleNet is integrated with the upcoming v3.9 of Moodle LMS, meaning resources can make their way to courses via a simple workflow.
  5. Admins are currently the only moderators of each instance, but in future, every community will have at least one moderator.

We’ve obviously got some refactoring and work to be done on the search page, but I’m pleased with the progress.

Ivan, our UX designer, is already working on improvements to the user interface for upcoming versions of MoodleNet. For example, in the screenshot below you can see notifications, community activity, and better previews of collections.

Mockup of potential new MoodleNet UI

In my three days on MoodleNet each week I’ve always got plenty to do. Mainly it’s prioritisation, as with any team things get pulled in different directions. So I’ve been sorting our OKRs, getting ready to onboard a new part-time team member, and re-organising the next few milestones.


In my We Are Open Co-op work this week, we finished off one piece of work with The Catalyst for Action West London, and then started scoping out some new work for the Social Mobility Commission. All of it at the moment is about helping organisations with an emergency pivot to digital provision.

We also managed to squeeze in a co-op half day, which was mainly focused on the new version of our website, which should be ready soon. I’m pleased that my wife, Hannah, an aspiring UX designer, had a hand in designing it!


I’ve had a chat with a bunch of people this week about my career, and also had a ‘maintenance’ therapy session. Both have given me a lot of clarity about what I should do next.

Also helpful in that regard was the first session of the Homeward Bound course facilitated by Dougald Hine on Thursday evening. That was also the day my wife and I celebrated 20 years of being together, which now constitutes more than 50% of our lives!


For Thought Shrapnel I wrote a post with a quotation from Edward Snowden as its title: Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say. It’s about surveillance culture post-pandemic, and is the fifth in a blogchain I’m writing about how western societies could look after all this ends.

I also put together my usual link roundup, this week entitled Saturday shiftings. There’s a range of links in there, including the new Unreal 5 game engine through to how to host a party in a Google Doc…


Our family went for a long walk on Saturday, which was enjoyable. We discovered a ruined building with a colourful history which I didn’t know existed before this weekend!

I’ve realised that I’m tired because I’m not only trying to keep everything going, but have more work on at the moment. Where I would usually have taken a couple of days holiday in the last couple of months, I’ve just been soldiering on.

It’s not like all of this is going to finish with a bang; it’s going to be more like an extended whimper. So I should probably stop putting off taking holiday as we probably won’t be going anywhere exotic this year!


You’ll never guess where I’ll be next week? Yep, in my fortress of solitude (a.k.a. my home office) working on MoodleNet and co-op stuff. It’s a good job I have a supportive family and interesting work on.


Header image of Chibburn Preceptory taken during our family walk on Saturday.

Featured on the Digital2Learn podcast

Back in November last year, I was interviewed by the fine people people at the Digital2Learn podcast. We talked about a range of things, with the result actually coming out as two separate episodes this week.

Digital2Learn: Doug Belshaw / Digital Literacies, Latitudes, and Learning, Part 1 [PODCAST S1 E18]

Digital2Learn: Doug Belshaw / Digital Literacies, Latitudes, and Learning, Part 2 [PODCAST S1 E19]

The topics of conversation won’t be surprising to anyone who knows my work. We cover some fun stuff, and then dig into the following over the two episodes:

  • Digital Literacies
  • Open Educational Resources
  • Decentralisation
  • Digital credentials
  • MoodleNet

I’d like to thank Brad and Tiffany for interviewing me, and I look forward to any feedback that you have on the episodes, which I encourage you to leave over at Digital2Learn.

(I’ve closed comments here)

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