Tag: Weeknotes (page 1 of 6)

Weeknote 41/2019

Last weekend, I greatly enjoyed the first of three weekends as part of a Mountain Leader course I’m undertaking. In the first session, before we got out and about in the Peak District, we were asked why we’d decided to take the course. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it’s basically for three reasons:

  1. To have a significant hobby/interest that isn’t screen-related
  2. So that I can take my family up into the mountains and feel like I know what I’m doing
  3. As an excuse to get away for the weekend by myself

The third of these is something I’m happier to admit as of late. It’s OK to know oneself.

I had another therapy session this week, in which we started exploring my social anxiety. I’m (currently) wired differently from people who are nervous about public speaking but who are in their element at informal gatherings. I avoid parties and anywhere that involves unstructured interaction, to be honest, and so I’m working on that with my therapist.

This week, I worked 4.5 days on MoodleNet, as I ‘owed’ Moodle half a day from last week. While I usually take Wednesdays off and break the working week into two halves, October will be different. I’m taking Mondays off this month as I want to have recovery time from the Mountain Leader weekends, and it’s Hannah’s (my wife) birthday this coming Monday.

Things are going well with MoodleNet, I’d say. The team has got into a great rhythm, and I’m very much looking forward to Mayel returning from parental leave next week. We’re now very much in the run-up to the Global Moot in Barcelona next month, where we’ll be launching the MoodleNet beta. There’s plenty to do before that, but we’re in good shape.

I enjoyed speaking with 10 Moodle community members this week about resource uploading, which led to this blog post. I’m pleased that outline plans for MoodleNet cloud hosting are taking shape, too. I want it to be really easy to set up an instance.

On Thursday evening I took my son to an open evening at the local high school. We have first, middle, and high schools in Northumberland, which is unusual for the UK, but also awesome. I went through this system and have taught in the ‘usual’ (primary/secondary) way of organising schools, and have to say I prefer the tripartite approach. It’s crazy to me that I have a son who’s almost ready to attend high school, particularly as I remember his age so vividly.

I’m currently reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and have loved bingeing on the second series of Motherland on BBC iPlayer with Hannah. If you have school-age kids, and particularly if you live in the UK, you’ll find it hilarious.

Next week, I’m celebrating Hannah’s birthday and working at home, before heading to the Lake District for what could be an interesting weekend. And when I say ‘interesting’ I mean tough. And when I say ‘tough’ I mean cold.

Weeknote 40/2019

One thing I couldn’t talk about last week was the surprise celebration we had planned for my father’s 70th birthday. We went to The Treehouse Restaurant at The Alnwick Garden, which has been the venue of several Belshaw family celebrations over the years.

Last Sunday, I drove down to Oundle for the memorial service to celebrate the life of Dai Barnes. The eulogy I gave can be found here. It was great to see the (huge!) school chapel packed out with family, friends, colleagues, and students.

After a busy weekend, I finally succumbed to the cold that has affected most of the rest of my family. That’s meant a strange pattern to my working week, as I’ve been trying to shake off the man flu. I ended up working full days on Tuesday and Friday, and half a day on Thursday.

On the MoodleNet front everyone’s just cracking on with the stuff that needs doing. We could do with some more help on the front end, and we need to organise a basic security/privacy audit, but that’s all in hand. I wrote a post entitled Beyond the beta: revisiting the MoodleNet whitepaper and looking to the future and talked with a bunch of community members about resource uploading.

I deactivated my @dajbelshaw Twitter account on Wednesday, and then on Thursday realised it was probably more useful just to rebrand it as ‘Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel’. I’m just auto-posting stuff to Twitter now as I’m kind of done with that rage machine.

This weekend is the first of three as part of a Mountain Leader course I’m starting. I’ll be in the Peak District, then the Lake District, and finally Snowdonia. There’s some wild camping to do, but thankfully not this weekend as I’m still feeling a bit rough…


Photo of gravestone taken by me in a Morpeth churchyard. It made me smile that ‘THIS STONE’ is all that remains legible!

Weeknote 37/2019

I used to employ a bullet-point format for these weeknotes but that seems to have gone by the wayside since starting my Friday roundups on Thought Shrapnel of interesting things I’ve read. I guess I don’t like writing two bullet-point based posts within a 24-hour period…


Anyway, it feels like a golden age on the internet for newsletters and podcasts at the moment. Which is to say that, sadly, it’s not particularly a golden age for blogging and other forms of social media. Most of the good stuff arrives in your ears and inbox rather than the open web.

In an attempt to force myself to use bullets, here’s three newsletters that you should check out. Interestingly, they’re all ones I pay for via Substack:

I’ve already listed a bunch of my favourite podcasts in the show notes to Microcast #072.


This was quite a quiet week, all things considered. The rest of the MoodleNet team apart from James were otherwise occupied with holidays, moving house, or adding a small human to their family!


After making an appointment related to stuff I was discussing last week, I got a chance to talk to someone Trained In These Things. It’s not like any of this is a mystery to me; I put the anxiety I experienced from my teaching career into a box, which now, almost a decade later, is being triggered by my involvement with Scouts. So after a quick chat, I’ve been referred for some CBT. Fingers crossed.

I’d told our Group Scout Leader that I was planning to step down after Christmas, but decided that it was actually in my best interests to do so immediately. While it made me feel guilty for the lack of notice, they’ve got enough leaders to cope, and it should help me get things sorted out.


In other news, this week’s Thought Shrapnel article seemed to be well-received. I also enjoyed putting together my latest microcast about privacy and children’s use of technology. Oh, and I wrote a short thing about why capitalism needs people to be upset about ‘prizes for all’.

Two more bits of news. First, the family of Dai Barnes have asked me to deliver a eulogy at his memorial service. It’s a huge honour to do so, and I’m grateful to Eylan Ezekiel and Dai’s brothers for their help with this. Second, I’ve managed to squeeze myself onto the last ‘split weekend’ Mountain Leader course I could go on this year. We start in the Peak District next month, and I’m very much looking forward to it.


Finally, I’d deleted Red Dead Redemption 2 after Dai passed away, but my brother-in-law Sean bought the game specially to play with me. It was a lovely gesture and very much appreciated, so I’ve reinstalled it and been showing him the ropes. It won’t take him long to be much better than me, as Dai was. (I’ve been playing the FIFA series of games for 25 years and still get rinsed by nine year-olds.)


Next week, I’m at home with Wednesday off to get the eulogy written and life admin done. All of the MoodleNet team apart from Mayel will be back, so it’s time to crack on with getting everything ready for the beta launch in November!


Photo taken on a family walk at Druridge Bay.

Weeknote 36/2019

It’s all been happening this week: back-to-school, wedding anniversary, publishing the very last episode of a podcast I published with my late friend, Dai Barnes, and… referring myself to counselling for anxiety issues.

I don’t want to shy away from talking about the latter issue, as I know for a fact that it’s something that affects many people. Men in particular are bad at discussing it, due to some misplaced notion of manhood whereby your inner life is all plain sailing.

In my case, I’m pretty sure my issues, which come and go, seem to be triggered by things relating to my teaching career. I’ve now not been a teacher (nine years) for longer than I ever was one (seven years), so it goes to show how much this stuff can have an effect on you.

Anyway, a good friend of mine had some real breakthroughs around an unrelated issue through counselling, which was a prompt for me to get something done. I guess the grief I felt with Dai’s passing was the proximate cause for getting something done about it, but it’s been brewing for a while.

In other news, as of today, I’ve been married to my wonderful wife, Hannah, for 16 glorious years. We took the opportunity earlier this week to go away for a night and had a thoroughly great time. It’s part of the marriage journey to see people at their best and their worst, and she’s seen a bit of both this week. I’d like to publicly thank her for her love and patience.

From a productivity point of view, some forms of anxiety can make you a dream employee. So long as it’s not the stifling and debilitating kind, your brain constantly reminds you that things need doing and you’d better get them done sharpish otherwise the world’s going to end. It never does, of course, but weirdly my personal angst hasn’t been causing me professional issues.

I’ve got plenty done in the three days I worked on MoodleNet this week. Most notably, I created a new version of the overview slide deck we use to introduce the project, with an accompanying screencast. I also tidied up the MoodleNet wiki, creating a scenarios page and adding more detail to the roadmap.

In terms of Thought Shrapnel, I wrote an article which I was pretty pleased with (and for which I found the perfect image!) I also recorded a microcast and roundup of links I’ve found interesting this week. I’m taking a break from Twitter, so I won’t be posting links to my work there for a while.

Next week, I’m back to the usual routine of taking Wednesday as my non-Moodle day. We’re potentially going to be without three members of the team for various reasons (holiday, moving house, etc.) so it’ll perhaps be a quiet one.


Photo taken by me in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on Monday night. It turns out to be art by Prefab77 whose work is described as “fast, hard edged and stripped down, a dark world of Gangs, Goddesses and Groupies, woven into a pure, rock and rebellion”. Nice.

Weeknote 34/2019

This week has been about getting back to work after our fantastic family holiday in New England. I’m used to the post-holiday blues, so mentally prepared for them this time around, taking things slowly on Monday and easing back into it.

Thankfully, it’s Bank Holiday weekend, so I can take a five-day holiday without having to take any leave. The joys of working a flexible four-day week!

There have been three main areas of activity for me this week:

1. MoodleNet

I returned a bit concerned that we weren’t going to make our (self-imposed, but widely-publicised) November deadline. That was because Mayel, MoodleNet’s Technical Architect will soon be taking a month’s paternity leave, and refactoring the backend code has taken longer than we thought. However, I’ve been pleased with Karen’s progress on federation and Ivan’s work on the new user interface. I think we’ll get there!

I focused on writing a lightweight spec document and updating Moodle Tracker issues this week, as well as the inevitable catch-up meetings and management duties. I’ve also published a blog post about MoodleNet’s draft user agreement and covenant for instance administrators.

2. Memorial TIDE episode

Earlier this week, I spoke with Eylan Ezekiel as we’re organising an episode of TIDE to celebrate Dai’s life. We’ve already started taking audio contributions, so please do consider adding yours.

Back in June, Dai and I recorded episode #119 of TIDE, but I never edited and released it, for a number of reasons. One of them was that it was interrupted by a couple of fire alarms at Dai’s school. Another was that I wittered on about anxiety to the interest of probably nobody.

Anyway, I’ve been listening back to what we recorded and I’m thinking of knocking it into shape to release as an episode. Dai says some pretty insightful things in it.

3. Thought Shrapnel

You know, I really do enjoy the work I do on Thought Shrapnel, and the new routine of posting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (with an email digest on Sundays) seems to be both sustainable and appreciated by subscribers!


Next week will be a short working week for me. I’ll be planning more for MoodleNet federation testing, and integration with Moodle LMS.

Weeknote 30/2019

I’m writing this in my lounge where, when I look up from my laptop screen, I can see a sky the colour of tupperware providing the kind of rain you expect to see in Autumn.

It’s been a strange old week, weather wise. We’ve had days in the high twenties celsius, followed by thunderstorms and now rain. A neighbour’s daughter is getting married today. It’s as if she’s being trolled by the weather.

The first of six summer holiday weeks has gone by as you’d expect with a 12 year-old and 8 year-old in the house. Or, not in the house as much as possible. They’ve been at an athletics camp and church holiday club, respectively, which has kept them busy. I’ve been working more in the house, mainly because my well-insulated home office turns into an oven at temperatures over 20°C.

This time next week we’ll be in the car, driving to Manchester airport to then fly to Boston, MA. This came about, as I’ve been telling people for the last few months, because of a wonderful app called Jack’s Flight Club. The rest of my family have never been to the US of A before, and so when an ‘error fare‘ appeared back in January, we jumped on it straight away! We’re also going to Iceland in December from Edinburgh airport ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Back to this week, and I’ve been doing a bunch of stuff, including in my four days for Moodle:

  • Releasing the clickable prototype of MoodleNet’s UI 2.0 to the community for feedback.
  • Contacting those who have volunteered (so far) for the federation testing programme.
  • Facilitating an internal Moodle meeting at short notice, which included a (very) condensed version of the pre-mortem activity I’ve written about before.
  • Grappling with Moodle Tracker. We’ve realised that sub-tasks get in the way of our workflow.
  • Spent time thinking through an updated workflow for uploading openly-licensed resources to MoodleNet
  • Reviewing a new Moodle ‘How We Do Things Around Here’ course from the People & Culture team.
  • Updating the MoodleNet overview slide deck for July 2019.
  • Doing some quick research into resource-sharing in ALT’s journal.

I’m a big fan of quotations, and perhaps I should start including one every week here. This week, I’ve been thinking about how the delicate act of being a Product Manager is such great practice for being a better human being:

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.

Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

I published my usual three posts for Thought Shrapnel which this week were:

I also changed the avatar on my social media profiles for summer, after reading a great section of Jonathan Crace’s book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep talking about ‘everyday life’.

After my move from Linux to ChromeOS (+Linux) at the start of the year, I explained how to get a Linux software centre on ChromeOS, and created a screencast demonstrating a useful search hack.

Next week is going to be successful if my wife and children remain happy, we manage to pack for our holiday without any drama, and MoodleNet remains on-track.


Photo taken by me on a family walk to The Plough at Mitford and back #nofilter

Weeknote 28/2019

As a result of supporting Buster Benson‘s work via Patreon, I’ve unexpectedly found myself on a Discord server with some very smart people. Happily, they also do weeknotes.

I really like the structure of Buster’s weeknotes. First off, each week has a name. Second, and I think this is the best part, he has a section where he looks to the week ahead and says “this week will be good if…”

With only three weeks to go until Team Belshaw goes on holiday, I’m thinking about routines I can get into when I return. I certainly haven’t got the mental or physical energy to make changes right now. It’s heads-down and get through the next little bit.

The reason I like routine is because it helps me control my physical and mental health. So the last couple of weeks haven’t been very helpful at all. I ended up back at hospital at the beginning of the week, convinced there was something seriously wrong with my ribs. They’re still hurting, but given the damage is actually muscular, I’m pleased to say the pain is easing off a bit.

The other thing is that it’s the time of the year where routines to do with my children’s school (and after-school) activities go out of the window. So I was at their sports days this week, there was a summer fayre, and a rain-soaked football tournament on Saturday.

Add in some travel for colleagues at work, end-of-term Scout business, and uncertainty around projects, and you get a heady cocktail guaranteed to give a routine-lover like me sleepless nights.

Anyway, at least everything is making progress, and no balls have yet been dropped. I’m really pleased that we’ve committed to MoodleNet supporting Free Cultural Works by default, and the clickable prototype for the new UI is pretty much done. I’ve also been writing/recording some good stuff for Thought Shrapnel.

So, deep breaths. Not much further to go. If I can ensure that the current 0.9.5-dev sprint completes as expected this week, then the MoodleNet team is set up for success before I go away. (See what I did there?)

Finally, I’m nearly finished reading a new novel by my very talented friend, Laura Hilliger. Entitled Maybe Zombies it’s not quite what you’d expect from the title, and is well worth a read. She’s also looking for a literary agent, if you know a good one?


Image created from a photo I took during a Photo Walk around Morpeth with Scouts on Wednesday.

Weeknote 27/2019

Last week I struggled a little bit with my routine given the pain I experienced with my ribs. I went to hospital on the Monday morning and was told that I’d bruised the muscular wall, but not the ribs themselves. Nevertheless, I was given a cocktail of codeine, ibuprofen and paracetamol to take for 10 days.

That meant no real exercise all week, which really affected me. Without my usual running, swimming, and going to the gym, I became a little lethargic and felt a bit down. I still can’t even do a press-up without pain shooting down the right-hand side of my body.

It also meant that I couldn’t go snorkelling with the Scouts on Wednesday night, something that I was really pleased I’d organised for them. Still, the sunset I witnessed while they were in the North Sea next to St Mary’s Lighthouse was incredible.

On the work front, though, the MoodleNet team managed to fix the problems we’d had with deploying v0.9.4 alpha. In addition, we’ve continued work on the new user interface, and change around some of the ways we work. I’m not a big fan of implementing approaches other than those that work in your particular context. For us, that means outlining everything in a Google Doc, and linking it to issues in the Moodle Tracker.

Due to the pain in my ribs, I was close to not going away at the weekend to finish off my Quality Mountain Days. However, I didn’t want to let down Tom, who had agreed to go with me. I’m pleased I went, and enjoyed our walks and talks. You can read more about that here.

This week I’m taking a half-day today, and then Wednesday as my non-Moodle day. The rest of the time I’m ensuring the MoodleNet team feel supported and have no blockers so that we can release a major update before I go on holiday in a month’s time!

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.

Weeknote 19/2019

I’m writing this from sunny Lisbon, where I’ve been at the Creative Commons Summit. I haven’t got the energy to capture all of the things I’ve seen and learned over the past few days, so check out my tweets from the event and the recording of a Virtually Connecting session I contributed to. Perhaps I’ll discuss it during the next episode of the TIDE podcast, as well.

It was great to catch up with Bryan Mathers, whose session on The Fabulous Remixer Machine was excellent. I used his ‘stamp’ remixer to create the image accompanying this post! I took photos of Lisbon too, some of which are here.

This is actually my second trip this week, as I took my son to the Lake District on Sunday evening. On Bank Holiday Monday we climbed Helvellyn and other peaks, as detailed in this post.

It’s actually felt like three trips. You can’t fly direct from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Lisbon, and I refused to pay the £350 that KLM wanted to fly via Amsterdam. Instead, I used routes recommended to me by Skyscanner to book two Ryanair flights on the way out (via Dublin) and flights via a couple of different airlines on the way back (via Faro). I took the opportunity of a five-hour layover in Dublin on the way out to make a quick visit to the Chester Beatty Library, including sampling the wonderful food on offer at its Silk Road Café.

In terms of Moodle work, over and above making connections and learning at the CC Summit, we’ve released MoodleNet v0.9.2 alpha. We’ve also been interviewing for a new backend developer.

I’m leaving Lisbon tomorrow (Sunday) and get back home in the evening. Next week I’ve got another conference in the form of Thinking Digital. It’s always one of my favourite conferences, which is handy as it’s held at The Sage Gateshead, which is a lot closer to home than some events I go to!

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