Tag: work (page 1 of 26)

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

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