Tag: weeknote (page 1 of 20)

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

Weeknote 35/2019

You know that feeling after you come back from holiday and you let out a sigh and then get back to work? I did that again this week after a five-day long Bank Holiday weekend spent in Devon at my in-laws. We had a great time.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the work I do, as far as work goes. But like most people, I think, given the current state of the world, there’s plenty of other things we could be doing with our time. MoodleNet will help with some of that, but obliquely. It’s going to help a certain group of people (educators) better teach another group of people (learners) so that they can, hopefully, improve our world.

I’ve written an update on the MoodleNet blog about where we are with the project. I have no major concerns right now, although the timeline for testing federation has slipped a bit.

The thing that’s taken a lot of my brain space this week is getting out the last two ever episodes of the TIDE podcast, which I recorded with my late co-host Dai Barnes. I added an intro and edited out part of the original recording we made back in June to publish Episode 119: AirDrop Crossfire on Thursday. Next week, I’ll release a memorial episode that I recorded with the help of Eylan Ezekiel and many audio contributions from friends and listeners to TIDE.

So it’s been a quiet week: driving back from Devon, working four days for Moodle, editing two podcast episodes, producing stuff for Thought Shrapnel, and then dealing with some drama when my son had to go to hospital after an accident involving him attempting some parkour. He’s OK, thankfully.

Next week, it’s back-to-school week for my kids, including a new school building for our youngest on the far side of town. So some logistics to deal with there, as she’s (just!) too young to walk there alone. Other than that, I’m taking Monday off and then working on MoodleNet stuff Tuesday to Friday.


Header image: photo of some street art at a skate park in Honiton, Devon

Weeknote 31/2019

This has been a week of consciously winding-down towards my holidays. Too often it takes me a few days to properly relax and then, inevitably, a few days before going back to work you start shifting back into ‘work mode’. During a two-week holiday, therefore, I end up only getting a couple of days of proper relaxation.

I worked two and half days instead of my usual four this week, and spent time preparing for Team Belshaw’s upcoming holiday to New England. We’ve got a bunch of stuff planned, including kayaking, cycling, exploring the history of the region, and chilling out next to water.

The main aim this week was to make sure the rest of the MoodleNet team can be productive in my absence. Given how talented and self-sufficient they are, that’s not a particularly difficult thing to do, but any team needs co-ordination.

As part of these efforts I produced a MoSCoW prioritisation grid for both pre-beta and post-beta functionality. For such a simple approach, it turned out to be remarkably useful. I also did some work around OKRs and other admin-focused tasks, and met with Eummena, who have hired developers specifically to work on MoodleNet.

I did my usual Thought Shrapnel work this week, including an article on FOMO, a microcast on Philosophy and Accessibility, and a roundup of links that I found interesting. My wife and I also went out for afternoon tea at The Running Fox, I hosted a Scout Leaders’ planning meeting, and I spent some time cleaning the street sign at the bottom of my road (after running out of patience with the council).

Next week, I’ll be… ON HOLIDAY! 🏖️


Photograph of Tynemouth South Lighthouse taken by me on a family walk last Sunday.

Weeknote 29/2019

I’m writing this sitting in my lounge while my daughter is watching Gym Stars (her favourite programme) and my son is upstairs playing Fortnite (his favourite game). My wife has just served up some magnificent scones with clotted cream and jam to celebrate the end of the school term.

Even though it’s almost a decade since I worked in schools, my brain still works in academic terms. It’s hard for it not to, really, given the lives of the other three members of my immediate family are school-centred.

I’ve got another couple of weeks before we head off on holiday. There’s plenty to get done, but it’s all manageable, I think. The clickable prototype that Ivan has been working on is looking great, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with the community next week.

This week, MoodleNet started federating! That meant that this week we shared a blog post for expressions of interest for our Federation testing programme. We’ve still got work to do on the front end and back end, but we’re aiming for this to kick off in about a month’s time.

I was looking forward to the Scouts Beach BBQ this week but, unfortunately, it rained. That meant we decamped to the Methodist church (where are meetings are usually held) and cooked the burgers, etc. in the ovens. Thankfully, everyone still came, so it was a good end-of-term event.

For Thought Shrapnel this week I wrote a pretty long article with an equally-long title: The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge. I recorded a microcast entitled Voice assistants, the gig economy, and… giving it all up? And then I shared some interesting links in Friday federations.

In other news, I’m taking a bit more of a back seat with the co-op over the next few months. I’m not leaving, just with everything else on I need to focus on other things and know that my colleagues have my back. Which is a great feeling.

Finally, I bought a bunch of books in the Verso sale. Their deals are so good, as you get the ebook and hard copy for the price you’d often pay just for the ebook. This time around I went for:

Next week, I’ll be working around the logistics of ensuring our two children get to various summer activities (football camp, church holiday club, etc.) while ensuring everything is going according to plan with MoodleNet.


Photo taken by me of a wonderful sign in a neighbours porch: “Watch out for the cat” (in Italian)

Weeknote 25/2019

This week started with a camping and walking trip that seems a long time ago now. I wrote that up here.

The rest of the week seemed to be an attempt to get back into a routine, both in terms of work but also in terms of exercise. I find that when my exercise regime (such as it is) gets out of whack, it has a knock-on effect on what I eat, how I sleep, and therefore how productive I am.

A highlight was backwoods cooking with the Scouts on Wednesday, which is always enjoyable.

I’m pretty much back to normal now, although I just want to forget last week, as much as possible really, and move on. It wasn’t awful, just nothing to write home about. And I’d like to use my energy on making sure next week is better.

Weeknote 24/2019

This week has felt long. I can’t believe it hasn’t actually been a fortnight, actually. The main excitement in the Belshaw household over the past few days has been taking delivery of one of these, which has meant completely re-configuring our lounge. The idea is that everything isn’t arranged around the television. We’ll see.

I’ve been working on three different things for Moodle this week:

  1. MoodleNet — the resource-centric social network for educators. I’ve been helping Ivan, our UX designer and front-end developer map out a new, more ‘conversational’ interface. It needs to use educational content before sharing with the community.
  2. Sunsetting moodle.net — we need to shut down the existing service at moodle.net in a graceful way and it looks like I’m responsible for that! There’s a Moodle Tracker epic with sub-issues.
  3. P2P badges for informal recognition — I shared a proposal with the Culture Champs group on how we could use Open Badges internally, pointing out the difference between credentialing and recognition.

Excitingly, Mayel has been doing some research into using a version control system such as git for providing the ‘fork/remix/share’ approach we want to encourage with MoodleNet. We’re also closer to releasing v0.9.4 which will allow users to choose a username and reset their password.

Other than that, I’ve been tired. Mainly because I’ve been sleepwalking(!) and dealing with more life admin than usual. In a moment of temporary insanity I’ve booked a stay at the campsite outside the UK’s highest hostel, so I’ll be carrying a tent while I walk on Sunday, camping at 1550ft, and then walking on Monday too.

I’m still writing every day for Thought Shrapnel, which I’m really rather proud of. No matter what people think of the content (although they seem to like it!) I find it a very valuable discipline to read enough to then be able to write something every day with at least six links in it.

Next week I’m working Tuesday to Friday on MoodleNet stuff after my (hopefully not ill-advised) camping/walking trip…

Weeknote 23/2019

This week has been much more enjoyable than last, after which I had a bit of a whinge. It’s been book-ended by two things I really enjoy doing: going for a long walk, and going out for food with my wife.

On Monday morning, I really was not in the mood for work, and had this almost primal desire to see the sea. So I re-arranged my working days and, as my wife had the car, decided to walk to the beach and back again. The caveat? I had to fit it all in between dropping off and picking my daughter from school.

Route from where I live (Morpeth) to the beach

As you can see from the Google Maps route above, I was pushing it to fit it in between 9am and 3pm. In the end, though, I managed it, and it proved to be a very enjoyable 18 mile (30km) walk!

This week has been an interesting one for my work on MoodleNet. It’s not all just fun and innovation when running a project like this. There’s compliance and legacy infrastructure to deal with, too. Happily, I’m pleased that the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) we’ve put out for community consultation is reasonably clear and interesting to read!

I’ve been working with Ivan, our UX designer and front-end developer on taking the MoodleNet user interface in a different direction. It’s an iterative approach, but I like the way it’s heading.

As usual, I wrote a bunch of things for Thought Shrapnel that are only available to supporters until next week. The one with the best title is probably There’s no viagra for enlightenment and the one I enjoyed writing most is What is no good for the hive is no good for the bee.

On Monday evening, Dai and I managed to record another episode of the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast. Episode 118 was entitled ‘Raising Digital Citizens’ where we discussed research in schools, walking long distances, screen time, digital citizenship, tech veganism, fully automated luxury communism, and more!

On Friday, Moodle colleagues in the Perth and Barcelona offices went out to celebrate the release of Moodle 3.7. We remote workers were given an allowance to take a friend or family member out for pizza, so I took my wife to BOX.PIZZA nestled deep in the Northumbrian countryside!

Next week I’m at home all week, working Monday to Thursday on Moodle things.

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!

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