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One person's trivial is another man's critical?

 
 
Picture of Alan Cherwinski
One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Please can someone explain to me how a basic feature like setting user profile defaults can possibly be defined as a "Trivial" feature request. http://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-2802

The issue was raised in 2005 and 6 years later no progress has been made on this type of basic functionality.

Come on developers every default value should be configurable through an admin interface. How are decision made to give priority to more advanced "sexy" features when the basic functionality is not yet in place.

Alan

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I think your subject link says it all!

In 6 years, the issue has garnered one vote, and no-one has cared enough to fix it. That makes it look pretty trivial to me.

Also, that is such an old issue, I am that it is no longer entirely relevant. Several of the key profile fields can now have defaults.

 
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Picture of Alan Cherwinski
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

A disappointing, but typical developer response. Many end user don't know anything about the voting system - they just curse the system and call it Muddle. If some fields can be fixed, why not all? Old problems don't go away they simply fester, because no one care enough to fix them.

I hadn't held out much hope from the developer forum and my subject line was meant to be ironic.

Cheers,

Alan

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Is this in the same philosophical range as ceilings and floors?

Trivial: unimportant, feckless, meaningless, miniscule, working-class, global warming, day after tomorrow.  

Critical: iphones, partying, sms, sexting, Who magazine, Glee

Sounds like a typical teenager type discussion this...

 

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I empathize with your frustration.  I'd cite two pieces of evidence indicating core developers' severe disregard for users' needs:

  1. MDL-16660  161 votes in three years and no action.
  2. The 2.x file system

This isn't a blanket statement as there are many occasions when core developers step up, listen closely and do the right thing.  Unfortunately there are still many occasions when a person wonders why there's a "user community".

 
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Anne Krijger
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

MDL-16660  to me is a good example of why there is a user community and how it works.

I really don't get what is meant by "no action" here; there has been action on this particular issue untill feb this year with at least two developers investing their precious time into getting this feature realized. And also interest shown from HQ in getting this feature into the next release.

Anne.

 
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Picture of Hubert Chathi
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

OK, maybe a lot of people don't know about the voting system.  But in the six years that the issue has been open, it hasn't even had any comments!  Not even a "me too"-type comment.

Here's a hint: complaining and being negative and insulting is unlikely to get an issue fixed any faster.  In fact, it may have the opposite effect by demotivating the developers.  If you want to get something changed, it's better to be constructive.  Instead of complaining about something not being done yet, ask what can be done to get it done faster.

 
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Picture of Petr Skoda
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Majority of core developers do not speak English as their native language - adding new setting requires appropriate setting name and description, it may take just a minute for you but for me it is a lot trickier. It is also necessary to find some new unique setting name and a page in the admin settings tree. 90% of the work on this issue can be done by non-developers.

Alen, can you help us?
 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Petr: My view of the MoodleHQ world has instantly changed.  I have never known this.  Gee, do I maybe have an englo-centric view of the world??

The foundational post in this respect for me was the post by Tomaz saying developers do listen.  I wondered about this, trying to balance my actual experience [which has included a lot of silence and unfinished conversations, forum threads and Tracker questions (etc)] on one side and my basic trust in Tomaz on the other.

-Derek

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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When I search for a list of core developers I get the following:

    1 Aparup Banerjee
    2 Anthony Borrow
    3 Dongsheng Cai
    4 Andrew Davis
    5 Martin Dougiamas
    6 Helen Foster
    7 Marina Glancy
    8 Sam Hemelryk
    9 Tim Hunt
    10 Eloy Lafuente
    11 Dan Marsden
    12 Sam Marshall
    13 Jérôme Mouneyrac
    14 David Mudrák
    15 Michael de Raadt
    16 Petr Škoda
    17 Rajesh Taneja
    18 Jordan Tomkinson
    19 Rossiani Wijaya

Of these, Anthony, Andrew, Martin, Helen, Sam, Tim, Dan, Sam, and Jordan (to my knowledge) speak English as a first language.  I don't know about Marina because AFAIK she's never posted to a forum.  Checking the forum postings for many of the others I note their english diction is better than my own.  I've seen, on occasion folks asking Petr to translate to English for them.  So, I guess I wonder about the assertion that language is a justifiable barrier in the issues brought forth here.  Now its possible this isn't an accurate list of core developers, it was last updated on July 7, 2011.

 
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Picture of sam marshall
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Note: that list includes all developers who work on some aspect of core code, not just Moodle HQ developers. Tim and I, for example, don't work for Moodle HQ. (Tim spends a large portion of his time maintaining quiz, and I spend a miniscule proportion of my time maintaining activity completion.)

In practice the native English speakers in the developer chat often help others adjust new text. But it is still not trivial and we would usually only be asked after the original developer has come up with their first attempt; I don't know how long it took them to do that.

Petr and David do have excellent English but they have both asked for this kind of assistance just in recent days alone...

Also bear in mind that if a new language string is added that means zillions of people have to translate it, so better not get it wrong.

Basically, almost no change in Moodle is trivial (for this particular one I don't really think adding lang strings is the biggest problem).

It is a fact that, out of thousands of feature requests, the majority are ignored (especially those with). This is an unfortunate reality of life and not particularly surprising, especially when the ignored feature has few votes / comments. (Or when it has many votes/comments but it is a difficult issue...)

If a particular feature is really important to you then you need to consider developing it (which can be quite hard if you want it to get into moodle core, but you can easily do it just for your own system) or funding its development (ditto, probably).

I thought certain earlier comments were, to coin a phrase, disappointing but typical for an end user response. smile

--sam

 
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Picture of Alan Cherwinski
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Thank you Petr, I had completely overlooked the language issue and the complexity that it introduces to fixes and development. My organization had contributed some of the French Can. user interface text a few years back  - via a our Moodle partner. It honestly never occurred to me that I being unilingual could help. If you can ever think of some way I can help let me know.

 
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Picture of Petr Skoda
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Hello Alan,

should we get MDL-2802 issue fixed? I think new setting for default would make sense because it might be considered a privacy issue. I suppose some sites already modify the code. Can we try to work together in the tracker? Is anybody else interested in this new feature? If yes please vote.

Petr

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I believe that pointing out a significant disparity in responsiveness between core development and the user community is very constructive -- in fact, I believe Martin D. has done the same thing.

 
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Picture of Hubert Chathi
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Martin D doesn't just find problems; he suggests practical improvements to the development process, and works with others to improve things.

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Hubert, if the problem identified is a disconnect between core developers and end-users, what would you propose for a solution?  Seems like this is obvious, core developers need to become more responsive to end-user requests.  I believe that is what I've heard Martin D. say and I have said it on many occasions in various venues, including the forums.  I've been with Moodle since 0.9 and have watched as the divide between end-users and core developers has grown.  I cited an issue as an example that had enormous numbers of votes which has languished without attention from core developers until just the last few days when Petr has come in and made some concrete remarks about what's really needed.  I don't believe I'm being non-constructive by pointing out an "issue in attitude" and not repeating the only obvious solution to the problem.  Please share with me some practical ways I can work toward improving core developers' response to end-users demonstrated (by voting) needs.

 
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Picture of Hubert Chathi
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Bob, just to clarify, my post was not in response to your post, but to Alan's post.

With regards to the disconnect between core developers and end users, Moodle HQ has already taken some steps to improve this by ensuring that bugs get triaged, and by changing the development model, which I have heard has already improved things significantly in the relatively short time that it has been in place.

Another potential issue is lack of resources, both in terms of total time (Moodle has a lot of feature requests), and in terms of required skill set.  Some issues require knowledge/experience in areas that only certain developers may be familiar with, and it could be that either there are no core developers with the needed experience, or the only developer(s) with the revelant experience are tied up with other, more important tasks.

There is also a difference in goals between developers and users.  Both developers and users want Moodle to be a great LMS.  However, users, in general, want this to be happen through adding features, without caring (much) about how it is implemented.  On the other hand, develpors, in general, want clean, maintainable design.  Recently, there has been a lot of rewriting of core Moodle code (Database library, Files, Backup and Restore, Question Engine, just to name a few), and a lot of developer time has been spent on those tasks.  In general, these were done either because there were significant flaws in the old code that needed to be remedied, or the new systems provided significant improvement.  Even though this resulted in developers less able to spend time on adding new features in the past couple of releases, it should make it easier to add new features in the future, both by allowing new features to be built on a better foundation, but also by reducing the time that developers need to maintain the old broken systems.

With regards to MDL-16660, it looks like Mark Johnson, and more recently, Jonathan Harker, have done quite a bit of work already on the issue, so even though none of the Moodle HQ developers have done much on that issue, I wouldn't say that there was "no action".  That's the way open source development is supposed to work -- community members contribute code.  Unfortunately, it looks like Mark was busy with other projects part-way through his work.  Now I understand your frustration, in which an old, important feature hasn't been implemented yet, but it has been worked on, just not by a core developer.

As far as what can be done to encourage old issues along, it depends on the particular issue.  Some issues just need a little prodding, or simple feedback.  For something like MDL-16660, though, as far as I can tell, it looks like the only thing that can make that go faster is a getting dedicated developer working on it, whether it be funding Mark or Jonathan to work on it, or finding someone else to work on it (I'm sure that Moodle HQ would respond well to offers of money too).  Perhaps Moodle needs a "bounty" system in which people who want an issue resolved can pool together money that gets paid to whoever resolves the issue.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Just to clarify one of the things Hubert said:

"Recently, there has been a lot of rewriting of core Moodle code ... this resulted in developers less able to spend time on adding new features"

I would disagree with that. Normally, bits of code are re-written precisely in order to add new features. That was certainly why I rewrote the question engine, and Moodle 2.1 has lots of new quiz/question features.

To explain further, there are essentially two ways to add a new feature to Moodle.

1. You can bolt (or duct-tape) the new features on top of what is already there.

Often, this is the right thing to do, because what is already there probably works reliably. Therefore, it is best to add the new functionality while causing minimal disturbance to the already working parts.

The problem comes if you keep bolting more and more features onto the the original structure. Gradually the whole system evolves into a big shaky mess. Imagine a Heath Robinson machine that has had more and more attachments added.

So, at some point, you have to stop doing 1., and instead do

2. re-build the chassis, so that all the existing features, and the new ones you want to add, fit together neatly in a logical way.

and that is what was done in a lot of the Moodle 2.0 and 2.1 rewrites.

 
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Picture of Rick Swengel
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Tim,  I noticed a reference to new features in the quiz / question engine in 2.1.  Since our school system has already installed and implemented 2.0, is there a way to plug in the new quiz engine and features.

FYI, I am and end user and not the system admin or a programmer.

Thanks.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Err. Yet. Upgrade to Moodle 2.1 wink

2.0 -> 2.1 is a fairly minor upgrade (apart from the quiz). You still need to through the steps but it should not be too hard for your sys admins.

There is no other way to get the quiz changes.

 
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Anne Krijger
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Just pointing out a preceived disparity does not seem very constructive.

Nor does cursing the system and calling it Muddle.

 

Making suggestions on how to bring the two together, if there were indeed such a disparity, would be.

 

Specifically suggestions on what the best way is to higlight those changes that would benefit the community as a whole the most.
And who gets to decide which is fair.

 

Anne.

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I've pretty much kept myself to the original topic of conversation which was, "why a specific issue was still not in core".  The immediate answer was it had no votes or comments.  I pointed out two (from a vast reservoir of) issues that exemplified a disparity -- what I believe is a disconnect that has been growing over the past couple years in the Moodle community. 

MDL-16660 is an "excellent" example in that core developer involvement has been limited to a couple encouraging exchanges and a "wrap-up" indicating the whole system should be rewritten.  Perhaps votes have no place in the new process but that's not what gets indicated in this forum and others.  How many votes would have justified core developer involvement in a tangible fashion?  Such as, responding to the pull request.

Nobody's said anything about my inclusion of the Moodle 2.x file system as an example.  Twenty-six schools recently convened with one of their primary purposes to disassemble and understand fully the 2.x file system.  I don't know anyone who left those sessions feeling like they had a good plan for "selling" this new file system to faculty and users.  Many wondered if they'd keep their jobs afterwards.  IMO Moodle took the most broken part of its software and broke it further.  And AFAIK they did so without much end-user involvement.

Let me site another recent example -- http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=174346 where David invites discussion on a framework for the "new" gradebook.  With the initial discussion started and much good commentary and questions, it appears David has dropped off the planet (though we know that's not true). 

As mentioned earlier, I've been with Moodle since 0.9.  I've been an evangelist for them before hardly anyone in North America had heard of them.  The current disconnect between core development and end-users causes me enough concern that I am looking around.

To satisfy what seems to be an incessant need to meet some "constructive" criteria I'll suggest the obvious, repeating what's been said many, many times before -- "Core developers need to be involved in the forum discussions (not just the issue tracker), listening closely to end-user viewpoints and taking to heart the weight of the user community, whether that's measured in votes or commentary".  I couldn't do my job if I didn't spend an hour every day in the forums.  IMO, I believe the same is true of core developers. 

 
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Picture of Hubert Chathi
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Bob, you (and others) have mentioned several times your dislike of the Moodle 2.x repository system in general, but I haven't heard any specific complaints.  I know there are some problems with it (some of which I believe are being worked on), but I'm curious about what particular issues you have with it.

 

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I have to agree here Hubert, lots of whinging but not many specifics. First, the repository system is a concept newly implemented in Moodle, so you cannot reasonable expect it to run perfectly. The other side of that coin is that the ideas inherent within the develpment of public repositories are incredibly dodgy. I suspect that the APIs used today will be very different to the APIs required in 3 years.

<style="oftopic:alittle;">For me, this technology has "high risk" written all over it and my own paranoia will not allow me to even consider it as a useful tool.) The advocates of "cloud" computing are shooting themselves in the foot, and data security has obviously not been a consideration. Anyway, besides that, the bottom line is that this "cloud" idea is still evolving, so everything will need to grow with it. The public nature of "the cloud" is just asking for undesireable attention and in the end, you actually have no idea who is looking at the data, who has access - either legitimately or improperly? </style>   

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I'd say its obvious you both sit on the other side of the fence from me, and I actually hope you're right and I'm wrong.  I'm not interested in seeing Moodle, into which I've put many years of my life go by the wayside like so many other "really good ideas" have.  In my recollection, Blackboard started out as a "really good idea".

Specifically and generally my problems have all been noted before in these forums and I'll note them again here:

  1. What Moodle implements IMO is not a repository but a "staging area" finding it necessary to bring the resource from the repository into Moodle hoping a hashing of the file will ensure better tracking (we know this has already caused numerous problems when a user wishes to irradicate the presence of the file everywhere).  While I understand some of the security reasons for this type of implementation there's not a sole on earth that would convince me this isn't a significant additional hardship on admins and users (over and above an incredibly unintuitive file system in moodle 1.9).
  2. While we're on the subject of repositories, why is it that I can't just share a folder from my repository in Moodle.  I need to create a folder and then fill it with contents from my repository.
  3. The file system will allow you to add multiple files when you use the legacy upload system (which I suspect many will fall back to based on what an outrage occurred when it was initially left off).  It tells you nothing about the fact that none of those additional files will ever show up for anyone -- they're essentially "support files" ostensibly used when you want to upload a web page with multiple components.  That will trip many teachers up and there's not a shred of obvious effort in the UI to alert them to any of this information.
  4. "The Server File Jungle" where a teacher must navigate down multiple levels of resource structure only to find out that they don't have permissions to what they see.  I can't figure out if this reminds me more of "Journey to the Center of the Earth" or Dante's "Inferno". We intend to turn it off if we ever get there.
  5. File size upload limits.  Not only are the same limits in place for My Private Files as general file upload limits (making Moodle more of a repository than it ever was before and something no administrator I know wants to deal with) but the limit is imposed on resources that are in a repository.  In other words, the repository allows you to upload a 500MB file but you can't do anything with because the upload limit won't let you.  This one should cause some folks to step back and say something like, "have we really thought through all of this from a user's point of view?".
  6. Saving changes.  All of your files appear as though they're really there and they suddenly disappear when you've exited the screen without clicking the "Save changes" button (which usually appears below the level of the bottom of the screen).  This one's likely to cost me my job.  The "real whiners" (IMO) will likely say "you simply need to educate your users on using the software properly" but in the "real world" (at least the North American portion of it), educators rarely come to training sessions in groups because they don't want their colleagues to know what they don't know. 
Is that enough or should I continue next week with a litany of problems that are easily discovered but difficult for users to overcome?
I've watched ECM (Enterprise Content Management) evolve for the past ten years and I take some issue with the statement that repository definition is somewhat dodgy.  I'd reserve that term for video standards.  The only repository type of which I'm significantly adept is Google Docs and I know that it allows through two-legged and three-legged OAuth2 standards a much richer repository experience than what we see being utilized in Moodle 2.x.  I'm certain, in order to make it pluggable, many things needed to be sacrificed but it seems those include user and administrative experience.  If you wish to view how a file system UI might possibly evolve for Moodle, take a look at Canvas LMS.  Granted it was written from the ground-up using Rails but I think neither of those arguments hold water for me when it comes to a product (Moodle) touted as having gone through a total re-write.  I'm confident our core programmers and contributors are capable of doing as well or better than Canvas LMS or Sakai 3 or the latest DTL.  I'm equally confident, as my post attest that they have basically ignored the user on this and will need to reverse that trend if they wish to retain and gain users.
I'm counting on you to correct any technical or reasoning errors in this post.
 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I'm going to cautiously agree that the file stuff in 2.0/2.1 is a little wide of the mark on the usability front. I've never dared to ask what the fundamental requirements for it where. It seems that things like security and extensibility won out over usability. That's not to say that those things are not important. However, when *everybody* used to complain about the number of clicks to upload a file in 1.9 and earlier one would have hoped that some priority would have been given to such a fundamental feature in 2.0.

I'm going to be optimistic and suggest that we now have a strong file API/underpinnings and this will facilitate some nice UI improvements in future versions.
 
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Picture of Hubert Chathi
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Bob, I don't want you to take my post the wrong way.  I am genuinely interested in what problems you were having with the repository system.  I have not personally worked much with it, but I have heard other people complain about various problems with it, and I was wondering what were the major problems you were having with it.  I also, personally, don't have much experience with Moodle as a user, so it is helpful to get input from a user's perspective.  Although you say there are many problems that are "easily discovered", I think that it is harder for developers to discover these problems, since they 1) know how the system is "supposed" to work, and 2) are not familiar with all the use cases that users expect.

I don't think that there is an "attitude" problem, in that I don't think that the developers are purposefully ignoring users (at least most of the time).  But whether or not it is an attitude problem, I agree with you that developers need to listen to what the users need, and that there is a lot of room for improving the communication between users and developers.

As Howard said, I hope that now that the underlying system has been designed, the developers can focus on the use interface.

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I too don't think that there is an attitude problem per se. It is rather an intrinsic gap between developers who do not use their own developments and the users of those developments. This is not unique to Moodle. It is not a matter of developers not listening to users. Developers do listen, but too often they don't have the user side practical understanding of the system, to the effect that they just don't understand the user lang (the user lang pack has not been installed, so to speak) although, quite interestingly, often enough developers use the same user lang with respect to systems they interact with as lowly users. The room for improving users-developers comm is endless and IMO will remain such until developers and users become ONE, which IMO will never happen (at least not on a large scale). So, I say (mostly to myself) use what you can, change it where you can, and no matter what stay happy.  big grin

 

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I'm sorry gentlemen, while I respect your viewpoints I don't think this is a time in the evolution of the LMS where we can merely sit back and hope for the best.  I'm not interested in hitting the "git blame" button, but whether you call it a "disparity", an "attitude" or a "conspiracy", I believe the chasm currently in place between users' needs and developers' directions requires immediate and serious "dictatorial" attention or Moodle will likely lose enough steam that its propeller will quit turning.  Folks waited a long time for 2.0 to finally be delivered and to say it was a disappointment would be like calling the Exxon Valdez a "fender-bender".  I reassert my faith in the capabilities of the core development team to accomplish the job, I just encourage someone able to redirect them to what "the job" really is.

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Bob I really empathize with your concerns but your reaction

... I believe the chasm ... requires immediate and serious "dictatorial" attantion ... I reassert my faith in the capabilities of the core developement team ... I just encourage someone able to redirect them to what "the job" really is

is IMO not only just a version of "sit back and hope for the best" but also fundamentally mistaken and even dangerous.

And what if that "able dictator" redirects them to the real job away from your reality? Isn't it basically what you are proposing happened with M2?

I think you should insead encourage the marginal (non-core) people who are probably closer to your reality to do their thing regardless of core. That's the beauty of open source. Thus for instance, if the repositories ui is unfriendly it may be wrapped with a friendly one or completely worked around with a plugin. And if that doesn't work we'll find another solution or another system.

smile

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Thanks to all for the vibrant discussion.  I come away with the these salient points:

  1. The development of the Moodle 2.x file system has not been done with the vast majority of end-users in mind.
  2. Comparing Moodle 2.x's file UI to competitors causes me to believe that "wrappers" and cosmetic (css) fixes not be sufficient changess to bring it up to where it should be.  A new direction or major shift is needed.
  3. Because Moodle is open-source I can (and did) develop my own file repository system that more closely resembles how I see repositories working in other software (i.e., easy linking, limits imposed by repository, not by moodle, folder-tree sharing).  It works for our school because we are a Google Apps for Ed school. 
  4. While git links to our repository code  have been posted in Moodle's forums, Moodle 2.x code and new workflows make it unlikely that any of this code will ever see moodle core. (See MDL-20617 -- try to detect the frustration in the core-developer's comments in trying to get a relatively easy fix into core over the objections of the core-developer who reviewed the code).   
  5. By whatever means (dictatorial, "awakening in the night", etc.), core developers responsible for the Moodle 2.x file system must change their direction.  IMO, if this does not happen, Moodle will continue to lose ground and the fixes I've made to the file system will be of no use since we will need to move onto another platform. 
 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Going back to the opening post of this thread, there is definitely room for more flexibility in setting defaults and I think that at least some of the Moodle 2 repositories issues you propose may be resolved in the same way. When I get there I'll see what I can do about that. smile

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

with regard to the trajectory of Moodle from 2.1.1+ on, I think I still feel pretty discouraged at the moment. Good discussion here, but we have gone over old ground, and the conceptualisation of solutions is still hazy at best, and the divide still there.    When I was a part time software developer (in 1990 - 1998) I talked to users regularly, sometimes weekly.  Things have changed.

Thinking about the theme of this thread, my "critical" items include

  1. less clicks to deploy a file/include image
  2. better forums
  3. native way to implement 1<>1 communication
  4. solution to the scroll of death
  5. quick and easy deployment of media with no extra required coding
  6. blog posts visible at course level only
  7. file sharing that is simple

Plus a few other items, but these are the top of the list.  The response I have had in several years here on Moodle.org is a bit variable.  Now, the effort seems to be going into Mobile and a few other things we hear whispers about, and all the legitimate infrastructure stuff Tim talks about.  It's unclear where 2.2 is going from the sparse roadmap.  You get whispers from each Moodle Moot, but it is all a bit hazy.  There are not even any more developers or people in the core team using word like "hope" for progress on these things I am interested in.  I've had personal communications with several of you posting in this thread and several who have not posted.  No joy really.  After waiting for 2.0, going through 2.1.0, and times like the day in March when Forums were removed from the roadmap - these are the reason I feel a little discouraged.

I am in a minority here I know: I can do without a lot of fancy gradebook things, Mobile provision, theme frills, tracking, hubs; the list above is the basics.  I'm interested in a simple Moodle core that works for the basic teacher.  Oddly enough, the most voted item (calendars) I can take or leave.  [as an aside, it is an irony that one version I use has this in it professionaly coded by Catalyst http://www.moodleinschools.org.nz/download/moodle-2-0-nz-schools-version] For me, it's like Maslow's thing: if it takes 200 clicks to upload a bunch of files, I don't think about calendars.

Itamar, when you say

I think you should instead encourage the marginal (non-core) people who are probably closer to your reality to do their thing regardless of core.

What you are suggesting is really a fork, or at best a highly enhanced set of addons.  Like Totara, or Hubert's ELIS http://remote-learner.net/elis 

Major issues: these packages cost a LOT.  This leaves out the small enterprise, the non-profit, the tiny school.  I've asked on the forums here about these packages to see what could be done to get their great (and available) functionality into core.  No replies.  There seems to be a huge huge barrier to getting these bits into the core.  eg Book.  ForumNG.  Menu.  The odd good format. 

I've been told "complaining is good", and to "pester" but I'm actually not prepared to do this.

Many many non-core developers are writing quick hacks to do what they want on their systems - or more complex projects, and their work is not really contributing to 'community', and there is huge repetiton: seven people all coding the same thing.  I do also know there are good aspects of the sharing inn the Moodle Community.

So you are back to needing significant expertise to get a basic useable site made.  There is no useable basic vanilla Moodle install.  There is not even one decent theme with a set of configurable options for the basics.

If you go to a Moodle Partner, the costs often are high.  A recent quote for me: Four hours at full chargout rates to do an upgrade from 2.0 to 2.1.  Small site, less than 120 users, less than 15 courses, no legacy stuff. No big or complex things anywhere in the sites.

So: from the users POV it is difficult.  Lets say you are not developing big scorm stuff with a dedicated ID section, you don't have good addons like ForumNG (you know: basic stuff like drafts, sticky threads, subscribe by thread, export, who has not posted lists, push ANY post out to everyone etc) and OUBlogs (like blog posts visible at course level) and any menu block (solve the scroll of death), multiple fule upload (eg sharing cart) it is just plain hard work to build and run courses.
Having read all this stuff in the forums, core developers have NOT said "Oh, tell us more, how can we help"  (I guess just one example: server files Dante's inferno to quote a previous poster - there is nowhere where this has been registered publically, or a response like "No fix" or "we'll consider it")  This is one aspect of the user/dev divide.  Totara and ELIS (and others) have just gone out and fixed it and a ton of other stuff.  Good for them.

The number of enhancements in 2.1 according to the roadmap is very very small.  I wonder what 2.2 will bring?  Tomaz has gone, the docs are a little drifting.  Scrums continue.  Dec 21 and 2.2 is looming.  I have got a smart phone recently (which I like), maybe I'm wrong about mobile.

However, back to Itamar's post:

My current thinking: we need a distibution version of Moodle with these items in as core. Maybe a spec list like this:

  1. Book
  2. Menu plus formats to solve the scroll of death problem
  3. Dialogue module to solve the 1<>1 problem, or a 1.9 Journal clone
  4. the top 10 scripts that have been available for years but never in core to do a few bulk actions
  5. Couple of standard File System repositories
  6. ForumNG
  7. Couple of the media plugins
  8. A couple of the good themes with config options (eg custon CSS, header image, footer, nice menu - a combination not available in core themes)

A distro not a fork.  Call it "Moodle Plus".  Moodle for the small insitution/school or non-prifit - quite a few of the basic useability/speed of deployment problems addressed in some way.  Quick to build simple courses, quick to manage key low level Teaching and learning activities, some enhancements to the user managment/course deployment - I know it does not address a bunch of compliance issues for some (Iike the tracking), I know it doesn'l help with the guys with 100 SCORMS to deploy, 26,981 students and 3512 courses (but you have the SMS and programmers to cope) the need for mobile, the need for micro-tracking of student activity etc etc.

May have an option to host with server access etc.  I did try to find some $$ for a project recently in the OER community, but they had none.  Just pondering at the moment.

My sense of discouragement could be ill founded.  There are some good hints in this forum (but not supported by links).  From Petra "Alen, can you help us?" maybe Alen can help. Hubert: "and by changing the development model, which I have heard has already improved things significantly in the relatively short time that it has been in place"  and re repos:  "I know there are some problems with it (some of which I believe are being worked on)"  sort of hope by chinese whispers.

Next month I am following Tomaz back to the classroom for 12 weeks, and Moodle as in meta activities will take a break.  To echo others here, I do hope Moodle survives the next few versions.  As Itamar says, "And if that doesn't work we'll find another solution or another system"

-Derek

 

 
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Picture of Hubert Chathi
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 
Derek, FYI, since you brought up ELIS, as of last month ELIS is available to the community (see http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=4894) for download, with full documentation. The main thing that the community release is missing is support. ELIS is currently only available for Moodle 1.9, though, but we're currently working on porting it to 2.0.
 
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Picture of Geoffrey Rowland
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Hi Hubert

Hope this is not too 'off topic' but I have a few questions about ELIS and haven't yet found anywhere else to ask (since the community release of ELI is unsupported!)

1. Will ELIS for Moodle 1.9 work with the latest Alfresco (3.4.d)? If not, any idea when this will be available to the community? In my experience, the recent Alfresco bundles are much easier to install/configure. So, being locked to an old Alfresco version (3.2) may be a barrier to ELIS takeup.

2. Any idea when ELIS for Moodle 2.x be released to the community? Looks as though Edu-Sharing already has an Moodle 2.x - Alfresco integration, though also for an old Alfresco version (3.0).

3. Any chance of an 'official' community forum for ELIS so that users can support each other.

After some wrestling with Tomcats, reverse proxies and the like, have finally got a basic Alfresco 3.4d repository working with Moodle 2.1. Can even link to files in Alfresco *or* copy them into Moodle. Still need to synchronise roles and permissions between the systems to make sure the right folks access the right files (this is where I hope ELIS may help).

Using an external repository like Alfresco seemed to be the only way of addressing many of the issues with the Moodle 2.x filesystem raised in this forum. However, it was, and continues to be, darn fiddly and I suspect it is not an option for many Moodle setups.

 
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Picture of Hubert Chathi
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 
Hi Geoffrey, 1. Currently, our Alfresco integration only works with Alfresco 3.2. Apparently, there are issues migrating from 3.2 to 3.4 which would affect many of our clients, so we are unable to roll out Alfresco 3.4. We are working with various people to get these issues solved, but it's taking a while. I know what you mean about being locked into an old Alfresco version -- Windows 7's WebDAV support doesn't work with Alfresco 3.2, so many of our clients are eager to move to 3.4. We have started work, code-wise, on supporting Alfresco 3.4, but until we can actually migrate our clients to 3.4, this is a lower priority, especially since we are currently focusing on ... 2. Moodle 2.x support, which is targeted for an early-fall release. 3. There are ongoing discussions in the company about the whole community release, which I am not involved in, so I can't say for sure. I *suspect* that it is unlikely that we will host an official community forum, but that is just a guess.
 
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Picture of Geoffrey Rowland
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Hubert

Thanks for your prompt and informative response. Has, no doubt, saved me from some wasted hours tring to get things working with the latest Alfresco.

For the moment, I'll stick with the default Moodle 2.1-Alfresco 3.4 integration and patiently wait for whatever new community ELIS goodies you release.

If this Moodle-Alfresco combination proves useful in the context of file system/repository, I'll document installation/configuration/authentication/tweaks on the Moodle Wiki.

Cheers

Geoff

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Geoffrey, yes it's off topic, but that is life. 

My side comment about ELIS was wondering about the problem of getting their good GPL stuff into Moodle core (ie not even as optional plugins).  This process still remains a mystery, but Michaels comment is pretty unequivocal: even if we pay then there is no guarentee of stuff getting into Moodle.

I'm interested to hear your comments about Alfresco.  In a former time I had great hope for MRCUTE the repository from England, but somehow it just never flew.  If you follow through and "Test Alfresco + write notes" that will be cool.  Lots of people never come back here to document how they have fixed their problems.

From Hubert's post, the guys at remote learner certainly will have their work cut out to get this sorted.  You say: " . . . synchronise roles and permissions between the systems to make sure the right folks access the right files", it is this that makes my head hurt.

Your last comment: "Using an external repository like Alfresco seemed to be the only way of addressing many of the issues with the Moodle 2.x filesystem raised in this forum. However, it was, and continues to be, darn fiddly and I suspect it is not an option for many Moodle setups"
It has been said before: Moodle Vanilla as it is may need to come with a disclaimer: needs to be linked to an external repository to be useable.

We have moved around a lot in this thread.  It's the silence that I feel most, the  frequent absence of feedback like  "Good point, we will think about it" or "Nope, no way we are worried about that, code it ourself" or "That is on our plan, watch this space" (Not always, Michael, Tim etc, appreciate your input).  Bugs, yes, after some looking at 2.1.1 there are some good fixes.  But enhancements, improved workflow and UI improvements, benefits from the pain and new infrastructure, these have yet to see any light of day.  To use the dreaded word with the weak asperate again, Maybe there is Hope for 2.2.

-Derek

Little side comment.  @ Michael, this talk of 100 inputs a week, 33 fixes, why no use of META in TRACKER to group/chunk requests?  Any topic I choose is usually distristributed over 3-20 tracker requests, with huge duplication.  My commentt a little time spent here could save a lot of wheel spinning.  eg the elusive JSON bug, Navigation problems, Quiz 2.0, enrolment plugins.
I can almost guarentee this would reduce spurious duplications by a large % not to mention improve our use of the tracker.

It's Morning here, just about to listen to "Mr Blue Sky" from one of the most prescient bands of the 1970's.  Have a nice day everyone, whatever timezone you are in.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

On the payment point:

First, it is basically impossible to 'guarantee' any particular things gets into Moodle core. For something to get into Moodle it must:

  1. be a good idea that will make Moodle better for everyone.
  2. must be fully thought through, and not 'clash' with any other existing feature, even in obscure edge cases. Ideally it should completent existing features so that the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.
  3. It must then be implemented as high quality code. That inclues all aspects that are covered in the coding guidlines, including accessibility, usability, perfomance, and so on.
  4. And then it must get through the review, integration and testing.
That is a number of high hurdles to overcome, and also all these points are subjecting. This just means that 'guaranteeing stuff gets into Moodle' is a socialogical, as well as technical problem. However, this should come as not suprise to us as Moodlers: Pedagogy#Social_Constructionism_as_a_Referent. We are all learning how to build a VLE as we go along. We are learning by doing it; we are learning from each other; and because we all approach the problem from different directions, we all have different valuable inputs to make.
Second, it is perfectly possible for payment to make a difference. For example, MDL-27171 got into Moodle 2.1 because the OU wanted it and paid LUNS to do it. If we had not done that, it would not have got in. However, payment simply ensured that step 3. happened. Steps 1. and 2. involved me thinging very hard about how Moodle works now, and how it could be changed to do what we want and make it better for everyone at the same time. It also involved me asking for and getting advice from a lot of other people: http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=172825.
Third, Michael's point is that Moodle HQ are not instersted in payment for specific bugs. (This is my interpretation as an outsider.) They have a steady income stream of royalties from the partners, and they just want to get on with listening to users, and prioritising and fixing bugs and implementing new features that are most important to the whole community. They don't need the hassle of one-off contracts for specific features. The market for contract Moodle development is better served by those parners (and others) who have set themselves up to offer that service.
P.S. On your side comment to Michael. Before you offer advice, you should probably find out what already goes on in the tracker. Everything you suggest is already done, so your advice just comes across as patronising. I realise that was probably not your intention, but it was the effect you achieved.
 
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Picture of Geoffrey Rowland
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Derek

Yes, in common with many others, we have tried many different Moodle-linked repositories over the years. DOOR, MrCute, ePrints, Dspace, Hive and SharePoint to name but a few. All showed promise but, for various reasons, didn't quite make the grade.

At the moment, Alfresco seems to be the 'best show in town' as an open source repository and does have some (almost) 'out of the box' connectivity with Moodle. However, it is a shame that the Moodle-Alfresco integration does not yet have a thriving open development community that might take full advantage of latest versions and capabilities.

 

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Thank you Derek for putting time and effort into recapping important issues.  I must say that this being the General Development Forum, you'd think we'd hear from a few more developers?  Many of the points you brought forth were the reason we formed CLAMP (Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Project) -- it allowed us to release our own version of Moodle with all the pieces and parts we'd all been using and patching for years that never made it into core.  Talking with MD at a Moot last year, he encouraged CLAMP to continue but cautioned us not to fork.  I assurred him we would not fork.  Unfortunately, I don't feel as confident about that as I did then.  I'm tasked with providing a good, solid, usable LMS to our schools that doesn't emaciate faculty hours in trying to figure out how to accomplish fundamental tasks.  Right now... its not looking too good.

 
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Dan at desk in Moodle HQ, Perth
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group DevelopersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Reading this thread is a great reminder that maintaining a software project is a lot like being a politician - without a free duck pond (sorry, UK 'Joke'). There is a need to make policy decisions all the time and have to strike the balance of annoying the least people.

I believe the US politicans were facing a similar dilema to the Moodle Integrators recently.. "Do we cut spending [cut a feature] or increase taxes [add a poorly designed feature]?" wink

Its always going to be difficult to strike the right balance, but there are always going to be users with aposing views and the balance is being refined as we go - we will never strike the optimum balance, there will always be room for improvement.

To place devils advocate.. It might even be a sign of strength of the project if sometimes a feature gets implemented which goes against what every moodle.org user is saying. After all, moodle.org gives a specific type of feedback from users who are themeslves interested in at least discussing Moodle. There is a danger of developing for the 'power users' and ignoring the majority.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Yes, but any time I read about 'real' politicians, I am really greatful for how the Moodle community works. We often manage to have in-depth, meaningful discussions on the substance of the issues, and there is not pointless partizan-ship.

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Bob, mmm no I prefer to think we are sitting on the same fence. Dissent from the accepted practice is always acceptable, and should be encouraged as we should never just accept whatever is tossed up. Your concern about the decline of products from the "good idea" stage into some monster is mine too. One of the things I am thinking is that in some areas, and this is not confined to Moodle 2, programmers tend to fall in love with their programming and produce things that display their brilliance, but are so complex that no-one understands them or can use them. Remembering that "Less is more" I cannot help but feel that someone else has forgotten that.

And Itamar, a strengthening of internal repositories and easier accessibility would be, I suggest, a lot more attractive to many users than external ones.

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I suppose it would be safe to say that most users would find terms such as 'internal/external repositories' quite inaccessible. My point is simply that it takes a user to develop for users. smile

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Itamar:

"..it takes a user to develop for users.." 

A Truism, but but only to a point. Sometimes one user/developer wants to go with what suits them and not most user/users. For example, I cannot code PHP, never learned and do not have time to do so now, but as I do not code, is my perception invalid? To someone who codes, it may very well be if it does not correspond to what they want, to their vision of what is possible. Is that happening here? My perception that a number of aspects of the GUI are not really "openly intuitive" i.e. read "no brainers". That does not mean they are not well coded, but they are, in my view, ugly and not really user friendly. Some of them are a step or two beyond where most user/users are - user/developers are comfortable with what is done, but user/users find it difficult. So I come to my earlier point, why was Less developed? Can that lesson be applied here?  

I think we can all learn from Marc Grober and Mauno K, look at what they are doing with Mauno's Maths plugins. Not easy, that is for sure, but they are trying to make it as useful as possible, accessible to even beginners. A lesson here, for everyone. 

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Here is an example. The standard database activity module doesn't have bulk actions (add, update, delete) on fields or entries. Do you know how painful that is for anyone who uses this module for anything even slightly more complex than the very simple image gallery preset? The dataform plugin allows bulk add, update, delete, duplicate, approve and more. Do you know how easy it was to implement all that (right after rewriting the whole module big grin)? And the whole point of this work is that next time I use the module in courses and other professional activities it will be easier and faster for me to do all the things I've done with it thus far and possible to do more things I couldn't do thus far. As a user I chose a user to develop for myself. No lessons here, just a plugin that everyone can use more effectively. smile

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

A good example of where the development process works, Itamar, I am sure. But it is in the very simple things where it seems everything goes wrong. Consider the image insert/edit dialog interface. Moodle uses buttons everywhere except for the button that you click that begins the actual browse/upload process.

The image inster/upload dialog

This is the sort of thing I am talking about. A simple change that is obvious to the developer, but the newbie is going to look at it and think "Ok, where's the button?" It is not immediately obvious, it is not difficult to work out, but it is not immediately obvious and I suggest it it has to be. That is the difference between "intuitive" and irksome. I also suggest that it is at the newbie to whom all development needs to be aimed. I think that this sort of thing appears to be a major factor in why things like Blackboard go from being "a good idea" to a monster, as Bob has suggested. I realise that this is an inane example, it is the most trivial I could find, but it is in the absolute trivial where things come unstuck. They accumulate, these annoyances, and then people get to the point where they really do not like them, then people start rubbishing it. That is just what we do and when we start rubbishing something, Shakespeare comes into play, "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." I certainly do not want that to be a future for Moodle.   

 

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Ah, but you see Colin, this particular example is an excellent example for why Bob's suggested approach won't work. I remember being puzzled when the point had been brought up by Joseph. I didn't quite understand what the problem was because the first time I used this popup I didn't hesitate even for a milisecond before moving the cursor to the not so obvious button and clicking. This had nothing to do with the fact that I could code. This was rather due to the top three guidelines in the hitchhiker's guide to the the online envrionment: first, obviously, don't panic! second, if you can click, click, don't look (and don't neglect right clicks; you can never know what you may find); third, in Moodle, click first the least obvious thing. big grin Excellent guidelines and I remain a happy Moodler regardless of what may or may not be obvious to the core developer.

It should perhaps be reiterated that I actually empathize with Bob's concerns about the usability of Moodle. I just don't find his suggested remedy appealing.

UI changes of the above type may be simple and obvious but they may still require a lot of work (easy doesn't necessarily mean quick!). Not all developers, perhaps even very few developers are blessed with the right mindset for that kind of work. The rest simply find their calling in developing functionality. No amount of comm can change that. Significant amounts of money may help a bit, but that's probably not a feasible option.

Playing on both sides, I can appreciate the amount of work that has been done on the infrastructure of Moodle 2. The change is so immense that once you comprehend it, it becomes perfectly understandable why version 1.9 should be dropped and everyone should move to 2 as soon as possible. This is not because 2 is so wonderful. This is because 1.9 and 2 are two different worlds and maintaining both is just too much. So I will do what I can where I can to make 2 better, and that's all there is to it. smile

P.S. If Shakespeare is right then Moodle 2 must be good. If Moodle 2 is evil then according to S. it must last long after people stop using it. But it is more likely that if people stop using it, Moodle 2 will inter with their old useless userdata. And so Moodle 2 must be good. wink

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I was actually thinking of BlackBoard, Borlands, Microsoft, Adobe, etc, etc, ad nauseum, ad infinitum. big grin WebCT is a prime example of where Bob's approach may not work well - if I have my history right. And they do not equate Cisco's headquarters building with a Borg cube without reason.  

And Shakespeare was a keen observer of human behaviour, which is why, irrespective of the prose, he is still relevant and yet technically better writers like Marlow have been reduced. Humans are funny people, we do the silliest things for the dumbest reasons and it either works out well or blows up in our face. That is why inventive people are always treated so badly, and successful people who treat everyone else badly do so well... Shakespeare knew it. wide eyes 

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Why stop at pointing out the problem? Open up Firebug and work out what changes to the CSS would make it look more like a button, and then tell us how to fix it.

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Thank you for proving a point for me Tim. Not everyone can be the first violinist, some of us have to blow the horns.

See, my perspectives as a user are of no value whatsoever to a developer!

 

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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And the closest Ihave come to finding the button is this:
<a onmousedown="return false;" href="javascript:openBrowser('srcbrowser','src', 'image','theme_advanced_image_image_browser_callback');" id="srcbrowser_link" class="moodlebutton">Find or upload an image...</a>

That is a link, so where do I get the button itself? This is why I am not a developer, Tim, it is beyond anything I understand - and I can only reiterate, I do not have time to learn it. Of course, I could always win the Pools or something...  

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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"Because I don't know how" is a perfectly acceptable answer my question.

You are choosing to participate in a forum called "General developer forum", so it is not unreasonable for me to make a post that assumes that you might have some basic development skills.

Moodle has always valued the input of users.

Oh, and Horn is probably the hardest instrument of all to play. Violin might be second wink

 
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Davo
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

On the 'Find or upload an image ... is not obviously a button' issue (this one tripped me up as well), how about finding the definition of '.moodlebutton' in the CSS files and changing the styles to:

border: 4px outset #CCC
background-color: #EEE

This is not a perfect solution (it overlaps the text fields below slightly), but to my mind it now looks like something you would expect to click on:

Slightly adjusted CSS on Image upload button

(Note I have only hacked this mock-up in Google Chrome, using the built-in dev tools, I haven't tried it with any other browser, so it might look awful in IE / Firefox / Safari).

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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What is the CSS on the insert/Cancel buttons? They look nince. My fear would be that they are using background images. Still, we could probably do the same for our button - we just need to make sure it can cope with whatever lenght the string is in all translations.

 
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Davo
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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The insert/cancel buttons have background images (or rather, the same image, with offsets). The upload button already had a background image (the icon), so it would require a bit if reorganising, rather than a 2 line fix to match the other buttons (but still perfectly possible).
 
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Picture of Geoffrey Rowland
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Perhaps just make the background image/icon look a bit more like a button?

 
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It's only an avatar...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Or like this...using CSS

 

Moodle Bar

/* Moodlbar CSS
---------------*/

#srcbrowsercontainer { padding-bottom: 5px; }

.moodlebutton  {
background: url([[pix:moodle|a/search]]) no-repeat scroll 0.2em 0.3em #EEEEEE;
border: 3px outset #7F93A3;
font-size: 1.5em;
font-weight: bold;
padding: 3px 3px 3px 1.5em;
text-decoration: none;
}

.moodlebutton:hover {
background: url([[pix:moodle|a/search]]) no-repeat scroll left top #FFCB44;
border: 3px inset #FFCB44;
color: #333;
}

The offset image in the hover plus the inset border gives a real sense of movement.

Mary


 
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Picture of Hubert Chathi
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

AFAICT, the background images for the Insert/Cancel buttons are fixed-pixel images, which are evil, and we shouldn't be adding more of.

IMHO, it would be better to just make it a real button instead of a link, if that is possible. Or if it is a link, style it like a link.

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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It could be simply 'upload', resulting in three buttons: 'upload', 'insert', 'cancel'. The current label is unnecessarily detailed. It's "find or upload" only because there is the option to take from a repo which strictly speaking is more "finding" than "uploading". But I trust that most users will not open a bug in the tracker over this terminological issue. the "an image..." part is entirely redundant to say the least. smile

 
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Ben talking on the phone beside a monitor
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Right you are, Itamar. The whole box is labeled with a smaller "image" title way at the top. So, "an image" is redundant. And, even if the button were relabeled "Find/Upload" that's much more in line with "insert" and "cancel."

And relieves some of the translation string length issue and Mary & Davo's pixels around the button issues.

 
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Ben talking on the phone beside a monitor
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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We are just starting to look at 2.1, and I will admit that I did not realize that was a button. I did see another thread in another forum where someone was saying the button had disappeared, showed two images -- one with and one without what I thought was a label/header/whatever.

So, thanks for teaching me another subtlety of 2+

 
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Picture of Eric Millin
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

As a developer working on making the UI more intuitive for his users, I think the user-developer gulf is overstated.  A bigger problem is that Moodle's UI is by far the most difficult part of the code to work with.  Unlike everything else in the framework, the page logic is out of sync with the "M", "OO", and "D", and the "L-E" suffers for it.  There are many issues that people in community could fix, but wading through the code is daunting for someone who isn't a Moodle expert.  Simplifying the pages and making them "MOOD" would allow community members to shape Moodle into a much better product, one that doesn't depend on a small group of people to make all the major fixes.  And while I'm not in a position to lead such an effort, I'm definitely willing to help.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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We took a big step in the direction of more modular output in Moodle 2.0, which was not easy because we had to make it easy to upgrade existing code, which as you say if often a mess.

The new system of renderers provides a framework where themes can change how certain things are output. That is only possible, however, once the mess has been sorted out. That has happend, for example, in the workshop module in Moodle 2.0 and the quiz module in Moodle 2.1.

See http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Themes_2.0_overriding_a_renderer for how to do this, and http://learn.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/viewpost.php?post=76235 for an example.

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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This seems like an appropriate juncture into which I'd place a reference to another MAJOR hurdle to community involvement improving Moodle.  Tim's probably quite familiar with this exchange:

http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=183023

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Don't get me involved smile

Seriously... there has to be some checks and balances for ensuring code quality. It's inevitable that any system will result in some people not getting their code included and they'll be annoyed (after all, nobody's addition or change is more important than your own).

It used to be much more of a free for all with all sorts of people being able to sneak in code for their pet project without any checks of any kind. This led to all sorts of inconsistencies and duplication.

Whether it has swung too far to being exclusive to those select few is a matter of opinion I suppose.
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Hi Bob, I cannot really agree here, the bug fixing process has had to change, as Moodle has had to change. I agree that the informal processes of the past were relaxed and friendly, but reality is that a certain level of professionalism has to be attained and then maintained. Moodle can grow so far, can only do so much, informally, but sooner or later, it has to become more formal, with all the rigidity and structured processes that that implies. 

I too will miss that relaxed informality, but for Moodle to survive as more than just a "nice tool to use" it needs to mature, and with maturity comes responsibility and more formality.  <style class = "whistful-melancholic">...Sigh..</style>.

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I am not in opposition to the argument that coding standards needed to get tighter but a reading of the posting mentioned involving Howard and review of MDL-20617 that I mentioned earlier in this thread might well lead one to think the pendulum has swung too far.  These are just examples... there are many more, some of them positive.

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Why? I submitted a fix and it was reviewed and submitted for integration. The process doesn't seem unreasonable to me. Would you rather (bearing in mind that I'm not the lead for the component in question) that I could just go and change the code?

I like a good rant as much as the next man but eventually you have to calm down and come up with a better solution - and sell it, of course.
 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Hi Howard,

You make no mention of MDL-20617 so I'll assume you may not have checked it out.  Andrew IS the maintainer and the immensity of the effort required to get a change approved is self-evident.

No, I'd rather not just go willy-nilly on commits.  At the same time, I don't believe its unreasonable to suggest a review of those areas where it is enormously difficult to even get heard, much less get code reviewed.

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I did but I'm clearly missing the point. It took just over a month from creating to closure and there was a mountain of discussion and suggestions in the interim. Surely, it's a *good* example of how things work?
 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Well... I'd say, "one man's effective is another man's obstruction".  This is bearing in mind that most everyone admits the gradebook is severely broken, but in the specific case of MDL-20617, it was decided to "strain at gnats, while swallowing camels".

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Bob - I still only hear you complaining and not suggesting how it could be done better.

Although the present system is somewhat onerous it should help prevent stuff getting broken in the future. One would hope so anyway...
 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I have suggested numerous times in this specific thread as well as many times in other threads that all the core programmers spend more time in the forums learning how the users of Moodle feel and what they believe is important.  That would provide a good start toward a closer "partnership" between the people who control what Moodle is and the people who control whether it continues to get used very much.  

Stating at this point that all you hear is me complaining sounds like you're in denial.

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Lucky for you that I'm not a core programmer then smile

 
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Picture of Glenys Hanson
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Hi Bob,

I'm not sure what the difference is between a "core developer" and a "core programmer" is, but if I look at the people at Moodle HQ and their access to Moodle forums it seems to me they do spend considerable time here.

They don't always make the decisions I'd like them to but that's life, isn't it? I couldn't always get my mother to see things my way, nor my father, nor my boss, nor my husband not even my friends...

Cheers,

Glenys

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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At this point, with the responses I'm getting I can assert that "all I hear is trivializing".  

The LMS world has traveled beyond the "commercial vs open source" to a point where the UI will determine the success or failure of particular product.  Moodle's UI is what gets the most comments and suggestions from users and IMO, the least amount of attention from the core developers/ programmers.  Hope that changes soon.  I believe the best method by which that change can occur is for more interaction between core developers/ programmers and users which isn't likely to take place in the Tracker or in the Development Discussion that's scheduled every month or so or in the developer back-channel chat, but in these forums.  I only subscribe to about thirty of them and see a handful of the same core developers taking serious part, with a few more jumping in and out every now and then and never having taken part in a forum discussion at all.  We need serious involvement between developers and users.

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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"and never having taken part in a forum discussion at all"

should have read, "and some yet never having taken part in a forum discussion at all".

 
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Dan at desk in Moodle HQ, Perth
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Moodle's UI is what gets the most comments and suggestions from users and IMO, the least amount of attention from the core developers/ programmers.

I disagree with this - actually I think you'll probably find its the area of expertise we are least skilful at as a collective group. I would be amazed if any developers thought that Moodle being open source would carry it above a decent UI.

I agree that more developer/user interaction would help the project, but just because you don't see developers responding to posts does not mean they are not reading them and taking the comments on board.

I am hesitant to even get involved in this discussion- there are a lot of good bits of feedback - but I am not sure where you are trying to get to..?

Admit we've made mistakes? Sure, the project is developed by humans, we make mistakes, learn from them and improve.

Improve External Contributions? Absolutely. Perhaps the contrib development community could grow to support each other in getting changes integrated to core.

Lets focus on how we can improve not what has been done wrong.

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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"Lets focus on how we can improve not what has been done wrong." 

Hear, hear! Could not agree more, Dan... but the issue I have noticed more than any other, in all sorts of fields, is that some people fall in love with their own expertise, and refuse to listen to any alternative. To improve means challenging one's own perceptions and prejudices, not an easy task, even for the best of us. smile 

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Bob, you say "but I haven't heard any specific complaints"

Maybe I have misunderstood, but Where have you been??

Here are some of the main threads on the repository isue, and these do not include the debates as the thing evolved and the Legacy hack was included:

etc.  Ton of unfinished conversations, unanswered posts, hanging issues and I have not listed any tracker items.  If which there are a lot.

And Bob's post does not include my main complaint: a lot of clicks to upload a file. I'll add item #7.

7.  Too many clicks.  To insert an image or deploy a file to a page or attatch a file to a post (etc)
In this case the developer/user gulf is epitmosed by the comment on the developer side "In the future most files will be deployed from repositories so it doesn't matter"  [In some respects this is quite good in that we have heard back from a developer.]

-Derek

 

 
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Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I have just spent several hours creating content in a new version of a leading commercial alternative to Moodle. Note I have used this tool for almost exactly the same amount of time I have used Moodle. I just could not find what I was looking for, and when I did I found it hard to work out how to use it, and I am a computer/web person by trade. I am not advocating complacancy but overall Moodle has a good interface. Having said that the 2.X file upload thingy does seem to be rather baroque (grins)

 

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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@Bob, @Herbert.

Typo in my last post.  I said Bob but I meant Herbert.

Sorry.

 
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Picture of Geoffrey Rowland
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Re: "Too many clicks"

Not a complete solution, but Davo Smith's new Drag and drop file upload block for Moodle 2.0 may help. Even allows for bulk selection and upload of files.

Cheers

 
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Picture of Paul Nicholls
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Geoffrey, your link was missing a "d" on the end - correct link is:
https://github.com/davosmith/moodle-block_dndupload

-Paul

 
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Picture of Geoffrey Rowland
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Thanks for the correction. Apologies for any inconvenience.

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Alan: some leads that may help you understand the process.  They won't answer your questions.

As an outsider, here is how I see the process you wonder at: things to do with the future of Moodle are emerging slowly, we can guess some things, like mobile will play a big part.  2.1 has absorbed a lot of energy.  There is a new scrum model, it's not exactly obvious what is being worked on at any given point and things can change.  Coding style is now more relevant, http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Coding_style Sometimes on the tracker things can remain dormant for a while (like years), there are a range of ways to work with this.  Sometimes tracker posters have been asked to write briefs and conceptual designs for requested changes.  Other times there is suggestions to code it yourself.  Voting continues to be problematical to some who don't like the tracker, it is unsure how votes count.  And some things without a doubt are on hold due to needed infrastructure developments.  (ie create a wigit to solve the problem everywhere rather than just do a hack job)  There are lots of tracker items, and often you need to niggle a little to see any movement, but basically people tell us this is "OK", that "Complainers and whingers help move us on" [but I personally don't like doing it.] and there are good and bad ways to niggle.  And in some strange way Moodle Core version 2.x moves on.  This is one version of the world of open source.

As to your basic question, (Why is it trivial) it could be a complete oversight, a small decision made in the past, an ommission, a mistake.
How critical is it for you?  You may need to check out Tim's comments about 2.1, figure out exactly what you need, post in the forums (see if there is any groud swell of support) then embelish the tracker item.  [You should vote for it, and maybe make a comment to say WHY it is important to you, hiting the forums before doing this is I think bordering on a unwritten act of bad form, and sometmes brings out a titchy side in people, especially if they post at low blood sugar times in the day]

However, even then, nothing is guarenteed. 

-Derek

 

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Things can move from trivial to critical on receipt of offers of money.

 
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Hanging in my Stackhat
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Hey Derek,

Just wanted to say thanks for the factual, respectful and well considered response. I'd never say that the method of prioritising some changes in the tracker is perfect, but I still thank my lucky stars that we are in a community where we all have the right to speak our mind - dissenters included.

Now I'm off back to the Tracker to keep trying to be persuasive smile

Mark.

 
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Picture of Alan Cherwinski
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Thank you Derek - you've pulled together some very interesting information with which I was not familar. I was titchy (new word for me) about the initial response to my post. Your points about better approaches are all valid. I think I looked unsuccessful for a forum related to the user registration form, which might have been the best place to address my concern.

Just to briefly give you a bit of background. My organization works with adult learner with serious literacy and numeracy challenges, including second language, developmental and physical issues.

In most curcustances providing a user with some simple text on screen instruction about benefit of hidding the email address in their profile would be easy to prepare and easily understood by the learner/user. It may be legislative privacy requirement. But our learner audience can't read most on screen instruction. In some cases the instruction would require the creation of an American Sign Language instructions in video. My gripping was not about my trying to make my admistrative life easier, but more trying to make Moodle more usable and literacy friendly for the learners. Not being able to set a better default value (from the current list of available options) for a field on the self-registration form means having to manually fix each profile.

Thanks for taking the time to point me in a better direction.

Alan

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Facetious answer.... send me a cheque and I'll code it for you. Well it's not entirely facetious tongueout

More comprehensive answer - what would actually be needed is not defaults for the email field, it's a mechanism for setting default values for *any* field on those forms. That's a different matter. There's no such thing as a 'trivial' issue that involves fiddling about with the user interface.

But really you've answered your own question. There are thousands of feature requests in the tracker. If you've got a better idea how they can be prioritised then let's have it.
 
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Frank Ralf
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Why not create a plug-in for that purpose in the good tradition of Progressive enhancement? There's a Form Manager available in the YUILibrary which looks quite promising wink
 
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Dan at desk in Moodle HQ, Perth
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Come on developers every default value should be configurable through an admin interface.

I'd quite like to challenge this point actually.

Moodle has an incredibly large number of settings, this is both a feature and a bug - perhaps Moodle should be making things simpler rather than increasing the number of switches. (Think of those poor book authors who have to document each and every setting with a page limit!)

You can still enable this functionality, by saying "The whole code is a configuration file" like Tim's didin his blog post on the subject.

p.s. I accept mojitos for features (do not pay until feature delivery, else the quality can suffer)

 
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Picture of Alan Cherwinski
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Just to be clear - I am not suggesting that more settings be introduced, only that when there are a number of options set for a field value out of the box that the default option be changeable. That would introduce no more required work for the admin unless they need to change the out of the box default. The current fixed value for a field like "email display" could just be the new default.

I've engaged Moodle partners as hosts and developers continuously for the last 5 years and have tried to get new code, bug fixes, and module modifications contributed back into the development community.  I do value the work of both professional and community developers. Luckly I am  usually able to put my money where my mouth or need is. I guess jumping to make my misplaced rude post rather than paying someone to fix the problem was a pent up reaction to seeing the large (6 years) philosophical difference in the value I place on making the user interface and experience (the initial point of contact - the registraiton form) easier to use by learners versus being flagged as trivial. When your primary user audience is in higher education in academic environments some usabiltiy and clear design issues are just not an issue.

I've learned my lesson and thanks.

Alan

 
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Picture of Petr Skoda
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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"I am not suggesting that more settings be introduced, only that when there are a number of options set for a field value out of the box that the default option be changeable." - I do not understand how you would want to do this without adding a new admin setting or doing a complete forms library rewrite.
 
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Picture of Alan Cherwinski
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Hello Petr,

I am not a programmer and don't look at things from that perspective. Unfortunately I don't know how to answer the question about forms library rewrite.

I am suggesting philosophically that in development when a new field is created of either the Check Box or Menu of Choices types  - where the end user (the learner) is meant to select a value from a fix list and where the developer selects a default choice that an (optional) administrative setting always be enable (somewhere in the Admin interface) allowing the Administrator to select a different default value from that fixed list. Admitting that perhaps the developer can't select the best default values for all implementation circumstances.

I am not suggesting different values in the list, only the option to select a different default value.

I think it would be logical to find all these registration form defaults on a settings page labelled something like "User Profile Fields".

It is obviously a bigger task than I was aware. Thank you for giving it some thought.

 

Alan

 
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Anne Krijger
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

Wouldn't that mean that every field in every form would need a 'default' selector where you select what your preference as it's default is ?

That sounds like it would increase the number of settings quite a bit as there are currently, most likely, no default settings for a lot of these fields.

Anne.

 
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My ugly mug
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Hi, All.

I thought I would add a comment here. I am currently responsible for triaging new bugs I am also the Scrum Master, responsible for making the Scrum process happen at HQ.

Some facts...

  • We receive about 100 requests per week to fix bugs, make improvements or add new features. Each reported issue is looked at and prioritised. Some are significant problems that break Moodle or expose a security problem, others are annoyances that people have reported.
  • We integrate solutions to about 30 issues each week. Solutions come from the Moodle HQ developers and from others, but they are ultimately reviewed and integrated by HQ Devs.
  • There are 12 developers at Moodle HQ who would love to be able to resolve everyones' issues.
  • We are currently maintining three versions of Moodle: 1.9.x, 2.0.x and 2.1.x. In future we will maintain only the two most recent releases.

When considering the prioritiy for an issue, we consider:

  • the significance of the problem,
  • if there is a security issue,
  • if a Moodle Partner is involved,
  • if there has been a solution provided, and
  • if people have voted on the issue.
If an issue is not getting attention, and you would like it to, I encourage you to attempt to create a solution. We take solutions in any form we can get them.
Michael d
 
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Picture of herve leger
回复: Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
 

i like this forum very much!

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Michael, would you factor in offers of money to fix issues?

 
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My ugly mug
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Hi, Marcus.

We don't receive payment for fixing issues.

Michael;

 
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Picture of Dan Marsden
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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but... this is a service most Moodle Partners offer smile

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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I've had a little break from hard core Moodle work.  Needed to earn some money and did some other stuff. But I'm just back here having a look around after being asked some difficult questions about Moodle 2.21.

This is a fascinating thread.

One of the issues we were talking about last August was how to bridge build between people's perceived needs and getting fixes and improvements into Moodle core. 

Dan has talked about "Paying Moodle Partners" to fix bugs.

Tim etc have said the Moodle "doesn't accept $$ for specific fixes"  and you can't guarentee anything. http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=180865#p796258

Also in this thread the gap between developer perspective (and even language) and users.  The use or otherwise of the tracker.  Quick fixes vs deeper development. 

My current question is to do with the difference between Fixes/Bugs and Feature improvements.

The process here: http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Process stil has more to do with bug fixes and issues rather than considered Feature development.

Feature development can be small.  OK, "you can now search the files in your System files".

Or big.  "OK, we now have ofered ForumNG developed by the OU in Code Moodle"

I see no place where this sort of dialogue happens on Moodle.org, even in the talk pages of the roadmap which used to be very interesting.  It is not open and transparent.  The four main flavours of Moodle I Know a little about (TotaraLMS, Joule, Moodle in Schools and CLAMP) http://www.clamp-it.org/ include two of the key Moodle Partners, wonderful little and big feature enhancements and yet still there seems no progress (in several years) getting their major enhancements into core moodle.

Cases in point: Alfresco integration.  Basic admin tools, like some of the scripts that have been around for years, adjusted UI. Media management to make it easy to handle the frought problem of video.  (Why does OU spend time building solutions that are not in any way headed for core?) etc.  There are more.  (Just check out the various home pages)

There seems to be no long term sustained conversations on Functionality improvements > Action in implementation.  There is great bug chasing, but the other side seems weak.

SO: just checking in really. Any progress on processes, forums, dialogue etc in the last little while? Any recent information from personal chats at Moots? Any news?

-Derek.

 

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
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Hi Michael,

The best I can do is point out what I suspect are problems with the interface. I cannot suggest responses or fixes other than in the most general terms. I cannot code, I do  not try, as when I do, I am bound to break things. I can edit, but someone else has to do the fix and clearly document it, I cannot. I would like to contribute technically, but I cannot. The trouble is you have 12 developers at HQ and a number of others scattered around the world. You have about 100 requests and other issues every week, which have to be triaged according to the criteria you set. In short, you are incredibly busy - overworked and short-handed.

I must ask here though, has anyone done anything more than set "guidelines" for the look and feel of Moodle? I don't want to step onto the set of "Pirates of the Carribean", but there is a vast difference between "guidelines" and "interface design rules". There are always going to be issues because of the limitations of PHP, HTML and CSS. While, largely, Moodle has been pretty successful in the clunky interface of v1.9, there has been a lot of improvements in v2, I cannot help but feel that some of the trivial matters, like the Insert/edit Image dialog have not really been well thought out. It looks cheap. The file upload dialog looks cheap but is ornate, or "baroque" as someone else described it. It is these things that can make or break a program. If I am not sure how something should be, I go and look at Vincent Flander's site - "Web Pages that Suck"   and remind myself of those basic rules of design. If I find something that qualifies as sucking, I try to let the people responsible know.  Mostly they do not appreciate it, but the fact is, you can have a seriously flawed product, but if it looks great, people will use it - ask Microsoft, they have made a fortune from that very fact.   

MD said at the MoodleMootAu in July that Moodle is becoming more professional in the way it does things, so maybe it is time for a GUI team.

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Try this link to the biggest mistakes made in web design, if anyone is interested. None of anything I ever did, a long time ago now, made it to Web Pages That Suck because, I think, I refreshed myself of what bad design looks like on a regular basis. I am no great designer, btw, I used these rules, as they were in the late 1990s, as a way of trying to avoid basic mistakes in design and structure. The first one on the list was, and still is, "The only reason my website exists is to solve my customers' problems." Bob's summative commentary above is indicative of how Moodle 2 is not meeting that criteria, and that is of huge concern to me. Does not matter whether I agree with him or not, that he has made those comments is enough for concern. Moodle 2 has so many great things about it, but the few that suck can be critical to public perception and will (note "will" not "may"), affect its future success.

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: One person's trivial is another man's critical?
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

The few that suck are always the most critical, no matter how trivial they may seem at other times. The few who work on both the critical and trivial will definitely affect its future success. And so they keep working. smile

 
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