Finding and sharing resources is like finding and sharing good shopping deals. Don’t agree? Let me change your mind.
Hot UK Deals (HUKD) is a website where people from the UK share ‘deals’ with one another. There are other, similar websites around the world, some of which are part of the Pepper network. I’m not affiliated with any of them, apart from being an avid user of HUKD.
I’ve used the site for many years now, and it’s grown exponentially. There are literally millions of people using this site, and it’s grown and developed with them. It was one of my touchstones as we developed MoodleNet between 2018 and 2020 (see this screencast).
As we identified in the early days of MoodleNet, there are two ways of finding relevant learning and teaching resources. The first is to know what you’re looking for, and to search directly for that thing. The second is more serendipitous, and involves discovering things that you didn’t even know you were looking for.
The same is true of HUKD. While I do occasionally go on there looking for something in particular, more often I discover things that I didn’t even know I needed in my life. I don’t necessarily mean in a materialistic way — it could be a kitchen gadget that makes peeling potatoes 10x easier, for example. (Realistically, though, it’s things like the giant mousepad with edge lighting I’ve got on my desk currently!)
The other thing that’s great about HUKD is the (produtive) ambiguity about what constitutes a ‘deal’. Some assume it’s just that the thing on offer is available more cheaply than it was previously. Some, and I’d include myself in this group, factor in other things such as whether it’s worth spending this amount of money on Product X when Product Y is so superior and available for just a bit more.
As a result, the HUKD comments section is a hotbed (no pun intended) of informed commentary. At the time of publishing, there’s 151 comments on a deal for home broadband. These range from people’s subjective experience, to supplier’s customer service, to very technical details about the difference between various technologies. I find it so useful.
I’ve chosen the above HUKD user somewhat at random. They’ve been a member for over 14 years! As you can see, they primarily share deals relating to technology, and comment on other people’s deals. There are contributing moderators (‘Deal Editors’) for different categories, but by-and-large the community is positive and self-policing. For example, it’s very poor form to try and ‘steal’ someone’s heat by re-posting a deal.
And, of course, there’s gamification and badges. These reward pro-social behaviours such as commenting or submitting deals that reach a certain level of ‘heat’. The badges then show up on the small profile when hovering over a username. It adds kudos. Overall, there’s so much to learn from the way HUKD has approached the UX and UI of their site. We don’t have to just do what’s been done before when it comes to learning design and everything which surrounds it!
This post was prompted by noticing that, 18 months after I left Moodle, there’s finally some progress being made again on MoodleNet (see here). I do hope that they maintain the goal of federation and decentralisation, and that they take it in a direction that provides community value. Right now, it seems most of the social elements have been removed, but hopefully they will reappear at some point…
MoodleNet isn’t exactly my first foray into the world of Open Educational Resource (OER) sharing. I can’t believe that it’s now 17 years since I was, as a fresh-faced teacher, first involved in a European project around using bittorrent to share educational resources.
I feel like the global pandemic has helped sharpen our collective minds as open educators and edtech enthusiasts. It’s certainly made me realise that we should be using torrents to share resources. After all, the more people are ‘seeding’, the less it puts strain on the bandwidth at any one location!
The great thing about bittorrent is that it’s a mature decentralised technology. There’s lots of ways of achieving the same ends, but I want to show perhaps the quickest and easiest way of getting openly-licensed educational content added to a torrent that you can then share with others.
How does bittorrent work?
You don’t need to understand how it works to use it, any more than you need to know how encryption works to shop or bank online. But in case you’re interested…
Make sure you’ve got some openly-licensed content. If you don’t have any of your own to share, you can find some at OER Commons or via this list.
Fill in the required fields to provide more information about the files to be uploaded. Then press the blue button to continue:
Once the files have been uploaded, you (and everyone else on the web) will see a screen similar to this one. There’s some additional processing to take place, but you should be able to see ‘torrent’ in the right-hand sidebar:
If you click to download the torrent, you should see something like this. While you may download the torrent to your computer, you can also just choose to open it directly in your bittorrent app:
The torrent is added to the bittorrent app. As you can see, the Internet Archive has auto-converted my original upload into other formats. You can choose to download all files (default) or choose some to skip:
Here is the torrent about to start downloading to your machine. If you leave the bittorrent app running, you provide an additional node to ‘seed’ the files to others!
As you can see from the above, creating a torrent from files you already have (or can find!) is pretty straightforward.
The huge value of doing this via the Internet Archive is that they will always be seeding your torrent. This means there will never be a time when someone tries to download your torrent and there’s no seeds.
What could I do to improve this quick guide? Do you have any questions? Ask in the comments below!
The great thing about working for an organization where you’re expected to be pretty self-directed is that you can organize your time pretty much however you want. The flip side of this, of course, is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of just doing whatever you feel like doing (rather than what’s important).
I iterated the daily planner below whilst I was still working for Jisc infoNet. I find it such an incredibly useful tool that I’ve continued to use it now that I work at Mozilla. You can print it out and/or download the PDF below:
The planning sheet was inspired by lots of different places I read productivity stuff, so if some of it looks familiar, that’s why. It’s fairly self-evident, but basically you:
Circle the appropriate day, date and month. You can find this to the top-right of the planner.
Add time-specific stuff to the ‘Morning’, ‘Afternoon’ and ‘Evening’ boxes. If you need to be somewhere or doing something at a particular time, add this before going any further.
Think through the things you need to do today. Some of these may be things you didn’t get done yesterday or have written on a weekly ‘scratch pad’.
Organise the things you need to do into groups. For example, most days I’ve got ‘writing’ and ‘reading’ as headings.
Write down the tasks you need to do under the group headings. These will then have a number and a letter next to them – e.g. ‘1a’ or ‘3c’
Add any other tasks to the ‘Emergent & other tasks’ box. These may be personal reminders or just less important stuff that needs doing sometime.
Start adding tasks to your ‘Morning’, ‘Afternoon’ and ‘Evening’ boxes. I also schedule lunch and exercise. You can just write the appropriate number and letter to save space – e.g. ‘2a’ or ‘3b’.
You can experiment. You can change it. You can do what you like with it. Yesterday, for example, I drew different numbers of circles around tasks to represent time in a quasi-Pomodoro Technique style. Do what you like. Hack it.