MoodleNet Federation Testing Programme

UPDATE: Form is now fixed!

'Network' by John LeMasney used under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA license

Overview

We’re looking for volunteers (individuals/organisations) for a federation testing programme we’re running next month. There’s a pretty tight turnaround, so initially we’ll require all communication to be in English, although you’re welcome to set up your test instance in another language.

It’s important to note that this is NOT simply a way to be notified of updates to MoodleNet. It is an expression of interest to run a server requiring both technical knowledge and a time commitment. There will be another rare badge available for those who participate in the programme!

What is ‘federation’?

The easiest way to explain federation is to think about email. Anyone can create their own email address via any provider they choose, and they can use any email software they choose. As the whole system is standards-based, anyone can send an email to anyone else knowing that it will ‘just work’. You only need to know their email address, something like name@emailprovider.com.

If we extend that idea to social networks, so long as a social network adheres to a particular standard, then anyone can send a message or other content to anyone else knowing that it will ‘just work’. In our case with MoodleNet, the standard is ActivityPub, which is already used by social networks such as Mastodon, Peertube, and Pixelfed

To begin with, we are interested in federation between servers running MoodleNet. Thanks to ActivityPub, users will be able to join communities, follow collections, and interact with other users, no matter where they created their account. And then, in addition, users of other ActivityPub-compatible social networks (‘the Fediverse’) will be able to follow and interact with MoodleNet users, and vice versa. 

API federated
Image CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers

Why do we need a testing programme?

The aim of the MoodleNet Federation Testing Programme is to test all aspects of federation, both between MoodleNet instances and the wider Fediverse. The programme will be successful if it:

  1. Validates the statements we have made about data processing in MoodleNet’s DPIA
  2. Demonstrates that users on any MoodleNet instance may follow, join, and interact with communities and collections on any other MoodleNet instance. 
  3. Confirms the value proposition of organisations running their own MoodleNet instances
  4. Establishes that search and discovery is possible across MoodleNet instances connected to the Moodle HQ API-as-a-service (‘mothership’)
  5. Shows that Fediverse accounts can follow and interact with MoodleNet users.

We envisage that the testing programme will cover three areas:

  • Interaction between MoodleNet instances
    • Join communities, and follow users and collections
    • Add resources to MoodleNet collections
    • Discuss, comment, like, and flag content
  • Search and discovery 
    • Find MoodleNet users, collections, and communities
    • Locate MoodleNet resources with a specific tag
    • Browse fresh content from across all mothership-connected instances
  • Integration with the wider Fediverse
    • Follow Fediverse users from MoodleNet
    • Display Fediverse status updates which @mention MoodleNet users or communities
    • Interact with Fediverse users (e.g. reply to an @mention)

Who should be involved in the programme?

We’re looking for individuals and organisations with both the time and technical knowledge to be able to test MoodleNet effectively. This includes moderating communities, updating their instance to the latest version, and providing regular feedback to the MoodleNet team.

Ideally, we would have a combination of Moodle Partners, educational institutions, organisations, and interested individuals who:

  • Will accept the MoodleNet federation testing programme agreement (forthcoming)
  • Have a working knowledge of Linux server administration with Docker containers (MoodleNet’s stack includes Elixir, PostgreSQL, and React)
  • Can dedicate around 3-5 hours per week to testing MoodleNet over the testing period

When will the programme start?

Servers connecting together in a hashtag pattern
Image CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers

We will begin the testing programme when MoodleNet federation is ready to test. This should be before the end of August 2019, although it also depends on the corresponding user interface work being completed by that time. 

How do interested parties apply?

Please use the following form to express an interest in the federation testing programme. Note that not all applications will be successful, as we are looking for a range and spread of use cases.

We are currently finalising the User Agreement and MoodleNet Covenant for Instance Administrators and will share these with successful applicants, as well as in a blog post.


Header image: Network by John LeMasney used under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA license

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