Reflections on MoodleNet at the Global Moot 2019

(MoodleNet presentation begins about the 1h00m mark)

Last week was the first-ever Global MoodleMoot in Barcelona, followed by the inaugural Open EdTech Global conference. Both events were attended by the MoodleNet team, with Doug Belshaw (Product Manager) there all week, and Mayel de Borniol (Technical Architect) around for the Moot.

We had chosen the Moot as a self-imposed deadline to demo the latest iteration (version 0.10 beta) of MoodleNet at the Moot, and (in the subsequent workshop) invite people to get their hands on a MoodleNet account. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out that way.

It was a close-run thing, but on the night before we were due to present, it was clear that we would only be ready to show 80% of the MoodleNet functionality we wanted to demonstrate. Unfortunately, the remaining 20% included functionality around the timeline, which, for a social network, is critical. We decided, therefore, to hold off issuing accounts and doing a live demo.

The team have had a retrospective about what happened. Without diving too much into the technical details, here’s the order of events:

  1. Over the last few months, we re-wrote the backend of MoodleNet entirely, as well as creating a new front-end user interface
  2. While most of the core functionality was ready on the backend and front-end for the Moot, we had issues with breaking changes relating to the GraphQL API (which provides queries from the front-end to the backend) which meant the whole team had to coordinate to make sure the different parts worked well together
  3. Despite the team working overtime and staying up hacking on it until 3am (while the MoodleMoot attendees were at the Moodle Party), we just needed more time to fix things before providing a proper look at the MoodleNet user experience

As a result, in the Moot presentation and workshop we were only able to show screenshots of MoodleNet’s functionality. Neverthless, as an open source project, we have already had developers setting up their own test instances of MoodleNet, as they are happy to live with incompleteness of features while they dive into the code.

We’re going to learn our lesson and not give any hard-and-fast promises, but we’re feeling confident that we will fix the remaining issues soon and should be able to start federation testing next month, though we may wait until January 2020 to open up registrations on instances run by Moodle HQ.

Despite our disappointment around not being able to show all of the amazing work the team has done over the last few weeks and months, there is a lot of excitement around MoodleNet. We’ve had Moodle Partners offering to work with us around integration with Moodle LMS, organisations wanting to set up an instance as soon as they can, and many, many end users eager to get an account.

The MoodleNet team is small and part-time. Our apologies for this setback, we’ll continue to work tirelessly to deliver this solution to you as best we can. We’ve certainly learned a lot from the experience!

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