My final post to the community.
This is a post I have not been looking forward to write. It is a post that fills me both with excitement and also a bit of sadness. But, as I am renown for verbosity and circumlocutory eloquence, let me start with the following.
Where we are going, we don’t need roads!
Lets first go back in time, back to late October 2004 when I downloaded my very first Moodle to use at my school. I was working at a school called Monte Sant Angelo Mercy College. I had just transferred across from the IT sector as the bubble had burst in Australia and I had suffered 6 redundancies in less than 5 years. Schools are stable I thought. I always wanted to be a teacher. And this wonderful school took a punt on me an brought me on board. At the time the school, very technologically progressive for it’s time, was using a system popular at the time called AUC (http://auc.sourceforge.net/about.shtml). The project however had died and its use within the school was pitiful as really it did little more than file storage.
One of my first jobs was to find a replacement for the AUC system. I looked at what other schools were using. While there were several products out there at the time, none really grabbed me They all were corporate solutions aiming to deliver school focused intranets. None really had a strong education/pedagogical focus). It was a random Google search at the time that turned up this fledgling project called Moodle. No schools in Sydney were running it at the time
At the time moodle.org looked like this
and the version I grabbed was Moodle 1.5dev, the development branch otherwise known as HEAD. This was the beginning of a trend for me. Even though this was a production site supporting a school of over 1,000 students, I insisted on updating weekly from the HEAD branch (manually mind you) because I always wanted those tasty new features.
Discovering the Community
My first forum post, like many, was badly worded, put in the wrong forum and full of typo’s. While I may have improved over the years at the first two points, I now like to think that the typographic errors are part of my natural charm and add to the personality of my posts.
Dated 16 February 2005, like many to this day, getting LDAP settings right were driving me mad. Within 2 hours of my post, another Moodle long serving legend, Martin Langhoff, came to the party with a solution and my first site was now live and integrated with my Active Directory.
It was in July 2005 that I attended my first Moodle Moot and my life changed. It was run in Adelaide, South Australia and was called the “Aussie Mooters Gather” run by Chris Ainsworth. It was run not as a profit event, not to big note any particular sponsor, but instead to bring together a community of practice of like minded thinkers. Here I discovered a COMMUNITY. A place full of like minded educators willing to share and collaborate on ideas to improve not just Moodle, but online pedagogy as well. I met Don Hinkelman (https://Moodle.org/user/profile.php?id=3098) who showed me how we could use Moodle better in the classroom. As a teaching tool, not just one for storage. I met one of the most passionate Overnight I became a passionate Moodler. A passion that continues to this day!
It was also the first time I met Martin Dougiamas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Dougiamas). This man has never ceased to amaze me. Apart from his obvious foresight to create the Moodle tool and keep it going over the years, my biggest admiration has come from seeing how he handles this community face to face. There is no ego. No showmanship. There is an honest want to meet and talk to users of the system to find out how it can be made better. For 11 years now he has been on “the circuit” of Moodle Moots, yet that attitude has remained the same. If you have ever been in a discussion at a Moot with Martin you will know what I am saying. We all know he has probably heard the same questions hundreds of times. Has received the face to face admiration of “fans” as well as the criticism that can only come from a high placed academic. Each however feels they have his full focused attention and walk away feeling they know more about the man and the project in the process. I have tried to mentor from him over the years in how he handles this and have to say that I have not always been successful.
Becoming part of the Community
It was this Moot that made me not just a user of the system, but made me want/NEED to be part of the community. To give back as much as I received. And I should note, back in those days the community was much smaller and by that very nature we got to know each other quite well. I remember being able to call Martin in Perth directly (I would not advocate trying this now and don’t want to be blamed for suggesting it) when I hit the multiple issues of running “alpha” code in a production environment. I felt pride at the time when Martin would call me “the cowboy”. Little did I know at the time that I think it was not meant to be a form of support :). I should point out that the debacle that was the Moodle 1.7 release cured me of this phase and from then on I was straight back to the official release branches.
Being part of an Open source community can happen in many ways. At first I started sharing code. Only one year in to my School’s first Moodle site I really started hating the look and feel of the system. The best theme’s at the time were Wood (https://Moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=26&rid=904) and Metal. And that really says something! (sorry Eloy). So, with a little HTML and CSS knowledge under my belt I created and released my first Moodle theme called “Cloudy”.
I was surprised at how easy it was and also by the sheer number of people in the community who loved it, downloaded it and used it for their own sites. The forums lit up and I was introduced to the wonders of supporting a world full of feature requests! (https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=96437).
This was to be the first of many additions I would make to the plugins database over the years. I am proud to have added/maintained:
For 1.x series
- Clouds Theme – http://web.archive.org/web/20060819004321/http://smc.monte.nsw.edu.au/
- MoodleBook (Facebook) theme -https://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=26&rid=4388
- Sky High Theme (now core in 2.0) – https://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=26&rid=2385
- Funky Theme Set – https://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=26&rid=1010
- The Imagine theme – https://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=26&rid=401
- MyCourses block – https://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=744&filter=1
- AJAX Google Search block – https://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=1337&filter=1
- Advanced FLV filter for 1.9 – https://Moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=1756&filter=1
For 2.x series
- Essential Theme – https://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=theme_essential
- Elegance Theme – https://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=theme_elegance
- FontAwesome Filter – https://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=filter_fontawesome
- Grid Format – https://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=format_grid
- Moodlebook theme – https://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=theme_moodlebook
- Rocket Theme – https://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=theme_rocket
Running a Moot
What has always stayed with me from my early days was the power of the MoodleMoot. If you have never been to one in your region I would urge you strongly to attend! What is a Moot? We can thank Sean Keogh for this little gem. Moot’ is an old Anglo-Saxon word for a meeting of the freemen of a shire (LOTR). Sean, who organised the first ever Moodle conference, just happens to be a major Lord of the Rings fan. Check out this page for more info on Moodle Moots. (http://docs.moodle.org/26/en/MoodleMoot)
The strength of Moodle is now and has always been that community which surrounds it. Collectively it knows more than you could ever imagine and is very open and sharing. Moodle Moots around the word bring these experts and novices together in one play where everyone is equal and everyone wants to learn. After my experience in Adelaide in 2005 I was determined to bring that same energy and passion to my teachers in Sydney. Problem was that no-one was running moots at the time. So I decided to run my own!
It is a little known fact that anyone can run a MoodleMoot. As long as you have the passion, the resources and the boundless energy needed to pull one off. I firmly believe Moots should not be the domain of those with vested corporate interest. Instead they should be run by those at the coalface who’s only interest is to build a community of practice of passionate educators in their area. And, because of this 2006 saw the running of the first “Sydney Moodle Conference” at Monte Sant’ Angelo College in North Sydney
It was many years later with the Pukunui Team that we were also able to run the iMoot! I was so passionate about getting this one off the ground as it provided the same ideas as local Moodle Moots but with the intent of uniting these great global speakers into one big international event. Allowing their content to reach and impact a far wider audience. More info on the iMoot can be found here http://imoot.org.
So Long and thanks for all the fish
So what is the post leading to? Why the history lesson? Well today is a big day as I am announcing that after 10 years of use I am stepping back from the Moodle community to pursue a new project.
“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
I am doing this not as spite or out of hatred. I still love the community, the code and the ethos. But after 10 years I feel the need for something new. I am a “life long learner” at heart, and while Moodle is continuing to evolve, it is no longer as dynamic as it used to be. This is no-one fault, or even a bad thing. Just as it has gotten older and bigger, it becomes harder for it to be dynamic. The little boat is now huge and takes time to turn.
So where am I going? I am still very much driven by the ideals of Open Source and Open Education. Any future direction by me had to include that. I also wanted to be part of a passionate organisation and one where I can hopefully continue to do what I do. I have found that project and am happy to announce I am joining up with Instructure (http://www.instructure.com/), the creators of the Canvas LMS.
I see them as being in the same place Moodle was 8 years ago. Still young, still dynamic and wanting to change the world! I am proud to have been invited to join their team and while departing Moodle is filling me with sadness, I am eagerly awaiting the new challenges that await me with the new project
The Practical stuff
So what about my projects I hear you ask? I will be transitioning out of them as I settle into my new role. I still intend to maintain and update both the Elegance and Essential themes for another 6 months, but am hoping that in that time I will be able to find a new set of maintainers keen to keep those projects alive.
I will continue to keep an eye on the forums and help where I can. But over the next few months my time for that will also diminish as my new role takes over.
My Moodleman blog will cease updating as of now and I will be renaming my @moodleman twitter once I com up with a decent enough handle.
My Final Soirée
I am excited that the MountainMoot in Montana will be my final Moodle Moot. I have been to moots all over the world (Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, London, Germany, Fiji) and yet never made it to the US. If you are in the US and want to catch up be sure to check out their website and come along! (http://www.mountainmoot.com/speakers.html). If you would have told me 10 years ago Moodle work would have me travelling the world I would never have believed you!
There are too many people to thank. Too many years of great friendships, collaborations and peer review. I want to single out just a few however:
Martin Dougiamas: For creating such a solid and collaborative project. I see many more years of Success for Moodle still ahead of it. Your leadership of the team and the directions you set are what have made Moodle the success it is today For your help, support, indirect mentorship and our many discussions, thank you.
Shane Elliott: I would not be where I am today without the friendship of Shane. Shane runs the Australian Moodle Partner Pukunui. We met in 2006 while at a Moodle Moot and from their things have only grown to better things. If you love my coding work you have the mentorship and teachings of this man to thank for it. He truly believes in the ethos of open source and has taught me nearly everything I know. Many many thanks!
To the entire community!: How can I sum you all up? You are family, you are friends. You are colleagues and you are mentors. You are learners and you are teachers. I learn more from all of you than I could ever have imparted. It is you I will miss the most and you who will continue to keep the project strong.
With the fondest of farewells, the biggest of hugs and the grandest of thanks
Julian (moodleman) Ridden