Tag: weeknote (page 1 of 21)

Weeknote 13/2020

This week was the same as last week. I’m tempted to leave it there, but of course the devil is in the detail, and the interest is in the nuance; the gaps and the cracks are what make us human.

I think you can read a lot into the fact that I dusted the desk in my home office on Friday morning. My office isn’t overly-dirty or untidy, but suffice to say that I managed to move around enough dust that I sneezed myself through my next video conference.

For me, Lent is now receding into the distance, despite the fact that, at the time of writing, there’s still two weeks until Easter. After all, when part of my family’s homeschooling curriculum involves baking cakes, and my wife buys me a bottle of whisky ‘just in case’, it’s fair to say that all bets are off.


Talking of my wife, I’m sure you can imagine the look on her face when an Oculus Go arrived at our house this week. Initially, I thought her shock was from me having bought something made by a company now owned by Facebook. It turns out that I was mistaken! Instead, she was concerned about the frivolous nature of VR and me buying another screen to look at.

I informed her that I didn’t pay full price but, instead, bought it from an eBay seller who had rarely used it. However, instead of being pleased by my cost-saving, she pointed out that buying something that works by attaching it to your face during a pandemic is… well, I don’t think I caught the end of her sentence. Back in the doghouse.


Like many people, I get emails from Google Maps showing me where I’ve been over the past month. I sincerely hope they’ve switched this service off for the foreseeable, as otherwise it’s going to be rather depressing.

My pandemic routine, such as it is, is like a parody of my normal day. Up at 06:30; breakfast with the children while my wife gets ready; start work in my home office at 08:00; work until 12:00; lunch; start again at 12:30; finish at 16:00. Rinse and repeat.

This means, on average, I walk 652 steps over the course of the working day. So it’s imperative that I do some form of exercise. I’ve been running; either hill sprints or my usual route around our town’s bypass, which is around 6.5km. It was just a little dispiriting when I left my smartwatch charging when heading off for a run the other day. I know the thing is having actually done the steps rather than record them, but I don’t like my smartphone to be yet another thing to be disappointed in me.


I went to visit my parents last Sunday for Mother’s Day, and then during the week to deliver some items that they hadn’t been able to get. Talking through a pane of glass, with the window cracked open slightly, felt like either they or I was in prison. It was pretty surreal, as is everything in this situation. It’s like being part of an alternative reality game where the daily arrangement of Joe Wicks’ shelves gives clues on how to escape.

Other than that, my only non-exercise activity was taking my children up to a WWII ‘pillbox’ that is less than a mile away from our home. I’m trying an enquiry-based approach to teaching them History, starting with an era neither of them have studied yet. They’ve come up with some great questions so far, which we’ll dive into over the coming weeks.

There’s something completely different about walking and talking, and being out in the open air when teaching and learning. I know it’s not ‘saleable’ but perhaps not everything needs to be? I think education is potentially going to look very different post-pandemic, especially if the lockdown lasts months instead of weeks.


We bought a picnic table to go on the patio at the end of our (small) garden. When it arrived, my wife was concerned it was too small, that it was one meant for kids. In the end, everything turned out alright and, after we put it together, we enjoyed a beer while wearing coats and hats. It’ll be good when the weather gets a bit better and the kids can do some of their schoolwork outside.


There’s not much to be said on the work side of things. The stuff I’ve done for the co-op would require a lot of context to make any sense, but we’re continuing to do work for Red Hat and Greenpeace.

With MoodleNet, we’re now very close to having a version ready for federation. There’s a showstopping bug in some of the code we depend on from another project that needs fixing. But other than that, we’re talking small tweaks and configuration. It’s pretty exciting being this close to releasing something for testing that we know is going to be so useful to so many educators.


Next week, let’s see… yes, I’ll be at home. Doing pretty much the same things as I’ve done this week. I’m all for routine, but this is ridiculous!


Photo of WWII pillbox taken by me on Thursday.

Weeknote 11/2020

Never has this quotation been more apt:

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Wow, what a week! My wife and I returned from Belgium on Sunday night, thinking everyone was being more than a bit over-cautious. By today, the next Saturday, we’re effectively tinfoil hat preppers.

Shortages in local supermarkets, handwashing drills, a new freezer in our outhouse, stockpile lists, and we’re seriously considering keeping the kids off school. I’m running outside instead of going to the gym.


I can’t even really remember what I’ve done this week apart from read the news and think about the impact of the pandemic on society. I’m not particularly anxious, it’s more that my brain goes into overdrive thinking about the “what if?” scenarios.

Apart from a couple of presentations on MoodleNet using the slide deck I posted here, I’ve mainly been sorting out GitLab issues and making sure the team is alright. We’re a fully-remote team based in Europe, with two in Italy, two in the Netherlands, and then one in France, Czechia, and Greece.

My co-op colleagues seem to all be alright, but of course any in-person work we were planning to do is a bit up-in-the-air at the moment. Who knows when all this will end?

I cancelled a trip to go walking in the Peak District with a friend this weekend, next week’s FutureFest has been postponed, and likewise next month’s MoodleMoot UK & Ireland. If things return to whatever the new version of ‘normal’ looks like, there are going to be a lot of events in the second half of the year.


One good thing that’s coming out of all of this is that people are being forced to figure out how to do things online. Virtual events, online learning, remote work are all things that should be commonplace in 2020. And in some sectors, and in some organisations, they absolutely are. But in others, all this is brand new.

I’ve worked from home for the last eight years now, with a dedicated home office that’s separate to our house. It contains all of the kit I need, and I’ve got a super-fast mesh network which makes our home wifi fast and stable. It’s easy to take all of this, plus the experience I’ve gained over the years for granted.

The great thing about remote work is that you have to measure results by outcomes, not how hard it looks like people are working. You have to have trust, and processes, and be able to convey human qualities like empathy at a distance.

I wrote something for the We Are Open blog about remote working for leaders and managers. Our co-op is definitely standing by for any organisations that need help in this regard.


It’s now a decade since I was responsible for technology at a large educational organisation. On Twitter, which I can’t seem to turn off at the moment, I thought out loud what I’d do if I had to pivot to online learning from a base of no current capacity.

As I auto-delete my tweets every 30 days, I used Thread Reader to ‘unroll’ my thread. Check it out here.

All of this has made me think that the best technologies are the open, mature, and tested ones. Which is why I wrote an ode to email, explaining why it’s the original robust, decentralised technology. I also reflected on sharing educational resources via bittorrent.


Next week, then, I’ll be at home. Perhaps with all of the rest of my immediate family. We’ll see.


Image by Volodymyr Hryshchenko

Weeknote 10/2020

I’m writing this on the train from Hasselt to Bruges in Belgium, travelling with my wife after speaking at the Open Belgium conference yesterday. My presentation on behalf of the co-op was on Open initiatives need open organizations. It’s Open Education week, so on Wednesday I presented on MoodleNet as part of an EDEN Webinar on open technologies.

We weren’t entirely sure whether our trip to Belgium would go ahead, what with all of the media coverage of the coronavirus. However, the scaremongering online and in newspapers bears no comparison to the reality on the ground when flying and visiting other countries. It’s all very well being cautious, but I don’t want to put my life on hold on the small chance that I’ll be infected. I can however, see the secret delight on my wife’s face when she (a closet germophobe) gets to disinfect all of the surfaces on trains, planes, etc. without me rolling my eyes.


A follow-up visit to the optician’s this week confirmed that the blepharitis that was affecting my right eye has pretty much gone. That means I’m back to wearing contact lenses, apart from on days that I get migraines.

For some reason I’ve had three migraines this week, which may or may not be connected to me giving up refined sugar and alcohol for Lent. I’m testing out that theory by suspending my commitment while travelling — meaning I can eat all of the waffles and chocolates, and quaff all of the Belgian beer I want. But for this weekend only, of course. I did lose almost half a stone this week, so I’m fully expecting to put all of that back on…


I wrote an article for Thought Shrapnel for the first time in three weeks, which kind of tumbled out of me. They’re the ones I enjoy writing the most: I’m struck by an idea, then I sit down to write and it all comes out in one go, with minimal editing. This one was (literally) full of questions.

Other times, it takes forever to write an article; I’ll have several ‘stubs’ on the go, and sometimes they turn into something and sometimes they don’t. Writing is a pretty mysterious process to me. People often ask me for advice, but I’m not sure I’ve got much other than ensuring you’re (a) reading a lot, and (b) writing a lot. In my experience, the more you read, the more you end up writing.

In addition to this week’s article, I provided the usual link roundup. This week it included everything from digital credentials through to survival, with a bit of panpsychism thrown in for good measure.


Given all of the coronavirus stuff, the reductions in overall travel, and the increase in the number of people working at least part of the time from home, I should probably write something about remote work.

Unrelated to the outbreak, my Moodle colleagues in Perth, Australia, had almost a month’s gap between moving out of their previous office and moving into the new one. As a result, they had a taste of what it’s like for us fully-remote workers. Holly, who leads the People & Culture team, wrote up their findings, with which I’d certainly concur.

Changes happen first slowly, and then quickly. That’s why, when I was a History teacher, I ensured students understood the long-term causes of events, and not just their short-term trigger. Remote work and home working is a long-term trend over the last decade (at least), and I think that the short-term trigger of events like the coronavirus will only serve to accelerate it.


Next week, I’ve got a couple of presentations to Moodle Partners and the Moodle User Association. They’re keen to see the progress we’ve made on MoodleNet. Other than that, I’ve got some onboarding to the work that We Are Open is doing with Greenpeace, and the usual chivvying, cajoling, and smiling-while-prodding-people that constitutes much of my working life these days.


Header image: street art in Hasselt, Belgium

Weeknote 09/2020

It must have been 1998, and would have been seventeen, when I realised that I needed corrective lenses. Despite my father wearing glasses, I had managed to get through pretty much my entire childhood without needing them.

I can remember sitting in an ‘A’ Level History lesson and the words on the blackboard were a little less sharp than they should have been. Not dramatically so, as my prescription only ended up being -0.25 at that point, but from then on I was Someone Who Needed Glasses To See Properly.

Since then, and throughout adult life, my prescription has progressively worsened. These days, for example, I wouldn’t be able to go out and about without contact lenses or glasses. But I really don’t like wearing glasses. At all. I think it’s probably something to do with not having worn them as a child. They also interfere with me doing the kind of exercise I enjoy doing.

So on Monday, when I woke up with a bloodshot right eye, painful to any kind of bright-ish light, I very grudgingly put on my glasses and got on with my day. After four meetings via videoconference, however, it was clear that I was going to have to do something about it. I was squinting.

The short version of what happened next is I went to the pharmacy, who sent me to the optician, who sent me back to the pharmacy for a bunch of things to counteract blepharaitis. This week, therefore, I’ve been wearing my glasses all week, which not only makes me a bit self-conscious, but the knock-on effect has been me doing less exercise.


While I’m bemoaning the subjective state of my world, let me also record for the biography that no-one will ever write about my life that I’ve also decided to give up refined sugar and alcohol for Lent. Cunningly, the ‘refined’ modifier here has allowed me to still eat honey, which is now my favourite thing in the entire world.

But this week has been largely a miserable week. Yes, I realise that having to wear glasses and undergoing a self-imposed ban on what are essentially luxuries is not exactly suffering, but this is my blog and I’ll say what I like, thank you very much. For some weeks to be awesome some weeks have to be less so. That’s just the way it is.


On the work front, as usual I split my week between Moodle and We Are Open co-op. For the main Moodle blog I published something on designing MoodleNet for the needs of the community, and on the MoodleNet blog posted about re-decentralizing the web.

Other than that, on the Moodle front, I worked with the People & Culture team to renew the contracts of three of the MoodleNet team, and to slightly increase the hours of the other two. I also booked my travel and accommodation for the UK & Ireland MoodleMoot in Dublin which is in early April.

Preview of a community in the ‘My MoodleNet’ feed

In addition, I’ve done things like working with the front-end team on the UI around items in MoodleNet feeds, and thinking through how we can make it really easy and straightforward for new users to choose a MoodleNet instance. Just a portion of the stuff that needs doing and thinking about in the life of building a product.


For the co-op, I spent my time working on a Red Hat sponsored project for public sector workers, being onboarded to some work we’ll be doing with Greenpeace over the next six months, and finalising dates for some work with another new client in London.

We’re also planning to meet up at Laura’s house in Germany in a few month’s time, which I’m very much looking forward to.


Due to my sabbati horribilis, I managed to spectacularly fail to produce either an article or microcast for Thought Shrapnel. I did, however, spend (even) more time than usual on Friday fluidity, which is this week’s link roundup.

Thought Shrapnel is a bit like MoodleNet in the sense that it’s difficult for those not making it to understand just how much time it takes to produce something that is easy to read or use.


Although I probably spend less than a tenth of the time paying attention to mass media than I used to, it’s been pretty difficult to avoid hearing, reading, or talking about the coronavirus COVID-19. Even during my own experiences with my ‘corneavirus’.

From World Health Organization guidance on dealing with COVID-19

However, I think the real threat to me and my family is pretty low. After all, based on the research I’ve done, even if we do contract the virus, the chances of us dying from it are around 0.2%.

So my wife and I will still be travelling next week so that I can speak at Open Belgium. We’ll then be spending next weekend in Bruges, which is somewhere we’ve both always wanted to visit. Due to my Lent commitments, though, I’ll obviously be on the frites instead of the waffles.


I’ve actually managed to get into a pretty good routine of waking early and going downstairs an hour before the rest of my family rise. There, with a cup of tea, and by the light of the fish tank, I read a number of books.

This means that one place that I have published several posts every day for the past 10 days is Discours.es. After I’ve highlighted particular section of, for example, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, or a couple of maxims by Baltasar Gracián, I turn on my phone and use the WordPress app to add them to my blog.

As there are a few people who subscribe to Discours.es either via email or Telegram (using BelshawBot) I schedule the quotations to be published a couple of hours apart. Just hitting ‘publish’ would lead to a flood of notifications, and I do like to be a responsible writer and publisher. Your attention, after all, is sovereign.

This week, in addition to the quotations, and after reading Stefan Zweig’s biography of Michel de Montaigne in pretty much one sitting, I published a couple of short posts about writing being a process of discovery, and noticing things around you.


Next week I’ll be at home from Monday to Wednesday working on MoodleNet stuff, and then flying to Belgium on Thursday to speak on behalf of the co-op. We’ll be over there until Sunday, all told.

Midweek, I’ve got another appointment with the optician. So I’m hoping that I’ll be able to both stop wearing my glasses and choose new ones. That would mean that, when I do have to wear them, I would at least avoiding looking like some pointy-headed academic.


Header photo taken by me on Monday morning. We got a couple of inches of snow, but it had melted by lunchtime.

Weeknote 08/2020

This week has been half-term for my kids, so I’ve been working less. Although it didn’t pan out exactly this way, the plan was to keep the same working days for Moodle and We Are Open co-op, but just work half days. My thinking was that this would allow me to keep up with the projects I’m working on, and also spend time with the family. As it happens, this approach has left me feeling like I’ve neglected both a bit.

Last week, I explained how my son had suffered from some trauma to his neck. I’m absolutely delighted to report that now, almost two weeks after the injury, he’s back to (carefully!) playing football with his sister and me. Some parts of his left hand have still have reduced sensation and he can’t turn his neck all the way to the left, but his recovery this week has been pretty staggering.


On the MoodleNet side of things, I’ve been finalising details around the budget for this year. Up until now, budgets have been centralised at Moodle, so it’s great for the team to have some direct control over resourcing. As we received around 90% of what we asked for (pretty standard practice, I’d say) we’ll have to bring forward some of our plans to make MoodleNet sustainable in a way that isn’t annoying or creepy.

What MoodleNet currently looks like (staging server)

I’ve learned with this project not to make promises about exactly when things will be ready. That being said, we’re probably a few weeks away from federation testing, which I’m looking forward to.

In addition to this, we’ve been working closely with the Moodle LMS team around integration for the two platforms, ready for their 3.9 release in May. Things are going well in that regard.


For the co-op, I’ve been working on a project which will be launched soon. It’s a community for aspiring open leaders within the public sector, and has had me revisit some work I’ve done over the last decade.

A slide from one of the decks I’ve been working on this week

This is a joint venture with LDR21 and sponsored by Red Hat. I’ve been collaborating mainly with Laura on some workshop resourcing around the fundamentals of working openly. It’s always interesting revisiting the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ of your everyday working life.


I received my new phone this week, a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G. It’s a beast in every sense of the word: larger and heavier than my previous phone, but with three cameras, insane amounts of RAM and storage space, and a 90hz full-screen display. Given where we live, the 5G isn’t much use to me right now, but I’m future-proofing…

OnePlus 7 Pro 5G

This has meant we’ve done a hermit crab-style upgrade, with my son inheriting my OnePlus 5 and passing on his OnePlus One so that my daughter now has her first phone. She’ll get a SIM for it in time for next academic year.

Inexplicably, my new phone doesn’t have wireless charging built-in. So I read this guide and added it myself with a super-thin charging receiver that fits underneath the phone case and plugs into the USB-C port. It’s actually pretty unnoticeable, protects the USB port from dust and dirt, and works really well.


Due to my son’s injury and him previously not being able to do much in the way of physical activity, we brought our PlayStation 4 downstairs and attached it to our TV. (It’s usually hooked up to a projector in the room next to the master bedroom.)

Ultimate Chicken Horse

A game that we’ve greatly enjoyed playing is Ultimate Chicken Horse. It’s as daft and fun as the name suggests, and we’ve had a whale of a time playing it together this week! It’s up there with Party Golf for fun multiplayer games.


Next week, it’s back to a regular week of working full days for Moodle on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, and the co-op on Wednesday and Thursday. My wife’s parents are coming up to visit next weekend, but other than that it’s business as usual.


Header image: photograph of the back of my home office door showing part of Inappropriate Guidelines for Unacceptable Behaviour. The partial quotation to the right reads “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom” (Kierkegaard).

Weeknote 03/2020

I confess to almost forgetting to writing a weeknote this week. Thanks to Mike Cooke for the reminder! It’s funny how, when we’re nudged out of a routine, things can go sideways.


The main thing I did this week was go to Kuwait City to run a workshop for the AMICAL consortium on the strategic development of digital literacies. For a variety of reasons, I flew there on Tuesday, led the workshop on Wednesday, and flew back on Thursday.

Regular readers will know that, despite my efforts to eat well and keep fit, such stresses on my body don’t always end well. And so it was that on Thursday I succumbed to a cold, and then on Friday lunchtime, after a number of meetings for Moodle, I suffered from a migraine that knocked me sideways.

It’s my fault, of course. I should know better than to put myself through these things. It was the lack of sleep that got me, I think, but had I stuck around an extra day, my only option would have been to fly back at 3am local time. That wouldn’t have been ideal either.

The workshop went really well, and I was so pleased to meet such lovely people who were so receptive to the ideas I was sharing. I received some great feedback on everything from ambiguity to managing a workshop of around 25 people.

Kuwait City isn’t a place I’d hurry back to as a tourist, but I will say that the Lebanese food I had on Wednesday night was almost worth the trip in and of itself. Delightful.


I recorded a microcast for Thought Shrapnel about the workshop, as well as publishing an article about hierarchy, context, and ways we approach the question of how we should live. To this week’s roundup of links I added some comments, which I’ll continue to do if I can prioritise it.


Things are looking up for MoodleNet as the feeds (e.g. ‘My MoodleNet’) are now working. There’s still plenty to do, but I’ve worked closely with Martin Dougiamas, Moodle’s Founder and CEO, on the roadmap and resourcing.

We’ve always had the code on GitLab, but now we’ve moved the issues there too. You can view the issue board for the current milestone here. As Product Manager, it’s my job to walk a fine line between idealism and pragmatism when it comes to choosing tools. Everyone seems happier so far.


I’ve responded to a couple of requests for work through We Are Open Co-op this week, both of which sound really interesting. I’m going to start getting stuck into some existing work that my colleagues are doing this next week.

Other than that, it’s ensuring everyone has what they need for MoodleNet, and starting to scope out a new e-book. I was going to revise and expand The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies but, instead, I’m considering one with a similar title as my AMICAL workshop using Leanpub.

The week after next I’m in Barcelona for Moodle meetings and then off to London for a co-op meetup. And no, I won’t be at BETT.


Photo taken by Dimitris Tzouris and shared on Twitter

Weeknote 02/2019

This week has been the first where I’ve started splitting my time between Moodle and We Are Open Co-op. For the former, my main focus was on the MoodleNet roadmap for 2020 and beyond, as well as a bunch of meetings. I’m trying to ensure we have the resources we require to get the job done. For the latter, I was putting together a proposal for a client, and finalising my AMICAL conference workshop on digital literacies.

I really enjoy planning workshops, as well as delivering them of course. Thinking through what you want participants to learn, how you can facilitate their interactions, and ensuring that transitions run smoothly, is fascinating.


Due to some building work happening next to my office, I decamped to my parents’ house for two days this week. Although I went to live back there the year after my undergraduate degree, I think that it’s the first time I’ve spend whole days working from my old bedroom since beginning my career proper. It was both slightly strange and oddly comforting.

I got into a pretty good exercise regime over the past week: swimming twice, running twice, gym twice, with one rest day. I’ve upped my daily press-ups, sit-ups, etc. as well as the number of lengths I do in the pool (currently 56, aiming for 72 next month).

In addition, I’ve been getting to bed between 21:00 and 21:30 and reading for about an hour before going to sleep. I’m currently re-reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, which I last read backpacking around Italy. I’ve been setting my alarm and waking at 06:30 each morning and, while my wife is in in the shower, I’ve been reading the following on my e-reader: Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, and On The Shortness of Life by Seneca. I did try Cicero again, but he really annoys me for some reason.

Talking of managing one’s emotions, I had another therapy session this week, where we started digging into the implicit ‘rules’ I have for my life. As we use a whiteboard during the session, it’s always interesting to have one’s assumptions and never-before-properly-expressed thoughts laid out in black and white. CBT is an incredible thing.


For Thought Shrapnel this week, I wrote an article that reflected, as many people have been doing, on the past decade. The microcast featured Adam Procter and we discussed his PhD project and the IndieWeb. My roundup of links always reflects what I’ve been reading, which in 2020 seems like it’s continuing to be the insidious effects of technology on society.


Having just recovered from turning 39, and a great Christmas and New Year, it’s my daughter’s ninth birthday this weekend. It’ll then be my son’s in a couple of week’s time. The fun never stops Chez Belshaw!


Next week, I’ll be working from home for Moodle on Monday and Friday, and then travelling on Tuesday and Thursday so that I can be in Kuwait City on Wednesday. Although there are tensions in the Middle East at the moment, I’m unconcerned. As I said to the conference organiser, so long as planes are flying there, I’m happy to go.


If you think I can help you with the work that you or your organisation is doing, please do get in touch: doug@nullweareopen.coop

(I’m particularly interested in getting some presentations and workshops booked at the moment)


Photo taken on New Year’s Day in the Simonside Hills, Northumberland

Weeknote 44/2019

I’ve been in Wales this weekend, which isn’t actually a country I’ve been to many times. It really is a lovely place, even in the depths of Autumn when the drizzly rain envelops the landscape.

The reason I was there is for the third and final weekend of the Mountain Leader training course I’m undertaking. Whether or not I decide to do the (separate) assessment, it’s been a fantastic, hands-on learning experience. I feel a lot more confident in taking others up into the mountains and what to do if anything went wrong.

This time around, given it’s half-term with a random teacher training day on Monday, I brought the family along with me. We stayed in a great place which is run by a couple who are mountain guides themselves. My wife and children have been for a walk of their own this weekend while I’ve been (literally) learning the Mountain Leader ropes.


We drove straight from Snowdonia to Liverpool for the fireworks display across the River Mersey on Sunday. It was spectacular, and much better than the small-scale stuff we usually witness back home! We recognised some of the River of Light installations from our trip to Amsterdam a few years ago.


Over the past week I’ve been recovering from last weekend’s events and sorting out priorities for MoodleNet. It’s now only a couple of weeks before the beta launch in Barcelona. I think everything’s going to be alright, and we’re going to really be able to show the power of federation.


I recorded a Thought Shrapnel microcast this week containing my reflections on Redecentralize and the Mozilla Festival. There’s a great write-up of the former by Piper Haywood. I also posted my usual roundup of interesting links that I’ve come across recently.

Talking of Thought Shrapnel, it’s got to that time of year where I usually take a break from blogging and social media. On top of that, it’s almost time to launch MoodleNet, so the pressure is on a bit.

I also want to spend some time doing some research and preparation for a digital literacies workshop I’m running in January for AMICAL. That may also involve updating and creating a new version of my ebook.


Next week, I’m taking Monday off to explore Liverpool with my family and take it easy after the Mountain Leader training. Then, it’s full steam ahead for Barcelona, ensuring we have everything we need to be able to allow people to set up their own federated instances of MoodleNet!


Photo taken by me in Snowdonia on Saturday

Weeknote 43/2019

This week has been about two events for me: the Redecentralize conference on Friday, and then MozFest this weekend. This was the 10th Mozilla Festival, and I reckon I’ve attended six of them.

Returning to a place that you’ve been in several iterations of yourself is an interesting thing to do. I’ve been to MozFest when I worked for Jisc, for the Mozilla Foundation, as a consultant, and for Moodle. Going back helps me understand who I am, what I value, and what’s changing (and what’s staying the same).

I didn’t propose a session at MozFest, but kind of ended up running one anyway today. Around 40-50 people turned up for a hotly-anticipated session on the Fediverse. Unfortunately, the facilitator didn’t, and so the audience ended up running the session — with me taking care of most of it. I think it went OK.

While I’ve been down here, I’ve had dinner with co-op buddy Bryan Mathers, as well as re-connecting with old friend Nick Dennis. I’m am lucky to know such awesome people.


It’s less than a month now until Moodle’s inaugural Global Moot where I’ll be standing on stage with Mayel to announce the availability of MoodleNet. There’s a lot to get done before then, so I’ve been doing some boring-but-necessary spreadsheet work. It kind of has the feel of a burndown chart, but more tailored to our project as it also involves assigning priority and weight to various features and functionality.

Leading a project like this, which has the potential to quickly take off at any point after launch, can be a bit daunting. After all, there are more than 150 million users of Moodle LMS! On top of that, although we’ve been building MoodleNet since about this time last year, we’ve been doing so with only 2.8 FTE of allocated resource — and I’m the 0.8 of that not contributing any code…


Last weekend, I was in the Lake District near the Hardknott Pass, on an expedition and wild camping as part of my Mountain Leader training course. There’s a real range in experience levels on the course, with some people having already passed their Rock Climbing Instructor assessment, for example, whereas I’m one of the least experienced.

That lack of experience showed in the form of me taking the largest (75-litre) rucksack of the group, with my tent and Z-Lite rollmat strapped to the outside. That was mainly because I took my wife’s huge sleeping bag, as I knew it was going to be cold. That meant I was toasty warm overnight, but that what I was carrying was a bit unwieldy. By way of comparison, some of the others were carrying 40-litre rucksacks with everything inside!

We did lots of navigation, including night navigation, and talked about the art and science of leading groups, as well as emergency procedures. I feel a lot better equipped now. The reason for doing this course wasn’t necessarily to do the five-day assessment (although that’s always an option); it was to ensure that when I go out walking with friends and family, I know what I’m doing and feel like I can protect them.


I went to my third therapy session this week, something which I’m finding incredibly valuable. The first couple of sessions were about getting the ‘lay of the land’, so to speak, and so in this third session we really dug into the nub of the issue. As I’ve already said, I’d recommend therapy to pretty much anyone who feels like they’ve got some kind of blocker to them reaching their potential. Having a non-judgemental space to talk about things deeply important to me is aces.


I agreed this week to run a workshop on digital literacies at the AMICAL conference in Kuwait in January 2020. AMICAL is “a consortium of American international liberal arts institutions, working together on common goals for libraries, technology and learning”. I was approached by Maha Bali, after sending out a message to the 1,000+ people who have bought or downloaded The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. I’m looking forward to it, as it’s going to give me a focus point for updating my work in this area, and hopefully act as a springboard for both a new version of my ebook and further workshops/consultancy.


I’ve got into a good routine with what I create on a weekly basis for Thought Shrapnel. I write an article, record a microcast, and then post a roundup of links I’ve found interesting. Due to my love of collecting quotations, I tend to entitle the articles with some of my favourites. This week’s took some topping: We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take us on or spare us.

In addition, I recorded Microcast #079 – information environments, and the roundup I entitled Friday facilitations and it included links on hugelkultur, situated degree pathways, the zeroth world, among other things.


Next week, I’m taking Monday off to recover from the weekend, before working on MoodleNet stuff from Tuesday to Thursday. We’re then heading as a family down to North Wales, where I’ll be embarking on the third (and final) weekend of my Mountain Leader training. My wife and children will be heading up Snowdon, and then we’re making our way back via Liverpool.


Photo of old map taken in my London hotel room.

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

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