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Testing MoodleNet

Last week I started to take part in the initial testing of MoodleNet. I have already been using it, but since I was attending FOSDEM I couldn't dedicate much attention until now.

In case you're wondering, MoodleNet is "a new open social media platform for educators, focused on professional development and open content". And what am I doing there if I'm no educator? Well, I "am" an educator, since I teach to myself, as we all do. I've also imparted some classes about programming, but that's not really the point. My interest in MoodleNet resides on resource curation and social interactions around it. I've been using Evernote for a while to store my learning materials, but I'm sure there's a better way and MoodleNet could be it.

The project is also being developed in the open and using federation (ActivityPub), both of which I'm interested in.


Task started

I've been visiting the platform at least once a day so far, and I've got the gist of its current status. The site is simple by design, since they are trying to validate core assumptions (it isn't production-ready yet). I definetly think this is the way to go about it, getting users involved as soon as possible.

My initial impressions have been good because it's easy to use, and it's clear what each section is for. But I've found something different to what I expected when I was talking about "storing my learning materials". The platform is built around resources and collections, but all of those are (at the moment) under the umbrella of a community. This is great for the social aspect, given that it can gather individuals intersted in a certain topic. But from a personal management of resources, it's kind of awkard.

For example, to get started I intended to gather some resources of technologies I like or want to learn more about: Solid, Laravel and Vue. In order to publish any resource or collection, a community has to be created, so I created one called "Vue Developers". And the problem I see with that is that it isn't my intention to create a community of Vue developers. The connotations of a "community" go way beyond what I'm trying to do with those resources, at least at the moment. And if someone really wants to create a community for Vue developers, they may be thrown back if one already exists.

Well this is only my very initial impressions, and it's clear that this is only a pilot at the moment focusing on some narrow aspects. It's also possible that my use case is not within their scope and that's also cool. That's what feedback loops are for.

Last week was the end of the first round of testing, which I was part of. After having visited the platform about once a day for three weeks, these are my opinions at the moment.

Most of my days consisted on opening the website, checking to see if there was any new community or collection that got my attention, and review some of the discussions I had participated in to see if there was any new activity.

Sometimes I also added resources. But I didn't do too much of that for different reasons. First, what I mentioned about having to create a community was a barrier. Second, I did not see much activity or feedback on my resources, so I didn't feel encouraged to continue doing it. And third, I don't think most of the people taking part in the pilot were interested in these kind of resources. Which is of course to be expected, because we were only 100 participants and the target audience for MoodleNet is educators, not developers.

One of my key takeaways as part of the feedback has been that the success of using the platform depends a lot on what other people is there. Again, not a surprise given that MoodleNet is a Social Network.

And what about new features? I believe that most features are bells and whistles, and the important thing when building software is the core value proposition and how it's serving the user. I think they are doing a good job at that, so I didn't submit many suggestions for new features on changemap. Another reason is that I waited on my initial reactions to let them sink, and I was glad to see that most of them were already submitted by someone else or fixed by the MoodleNet team with product updates.

Task completed