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Picture of Helen Foster
Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Hi everyone,

We're planning a big redesign of moodle.org in the next few months (including a new theme) and would really like your ideas and suggestions of how to improve the site.

One issue that newcomers often struggle with is after posting in a forum they suddenly receive tons of emails about seemingly unrelated discussions. Being able to subscribe to a forum thread rather than a forum (MDL-1626) would solve this particular issue.

Another issue is that people are overwhelmed by the number of forums in Using Moodle and don't know which one to post in, so post in several, or somehow find the Lounge and then post asking for help in there. An obvious solution would be to greatly reduce the number of forums in this course.

No doubt you can think of quite a few more issues with moodle.org... wink

Thus, please share your ideas and let's have a brainstorm on how moodle.org can be improved. smile

 
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Picture of Gavin Henrick
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Using Moodle Course

I would recommend breaking the Using Moodle into a lot of courses, one for each topic that currently exist (or something like that).

At the top in section 0 add icons driven menu for each subsequent topic?

Each topic in that course being single focus on one issue, something like

  • Name -  Assignment module
  • Label - 1 liner description on it taken from Docs
  • Forum - Discussion on Assignment Module
  • Documentation Link - Link to Moodle Docs page for the assignment

Just my 2 cents.

+1 for thread for thread subscription

 
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Picture of Robert Brenstein
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Creating a lot of courses would be counter-productive IMHO. However, splitting Using Moodle into a few courses might be something indeed to consider, like creating a course for more or less each group of forums. Then, it will be more clear which course is about basic usage of Moodle, which about advanced features, and which about deep stuff and development.

The forums could then stay pretty much as they are. I don't think that reducing their number drastically will be that helpful. On the contrary, it may make them too diluted with topics varying too much. But having each course geared to certain type of users would let organize things better and include (possibly) more resources, starting with splitting them further in smaller groups in different sections.

On the other hand, an option to close certain threads might be a good idea, although it should probably be available only to supervisors.
 
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Sam@moodle
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Hi Helen,

Just as an idea getting the forums closer to the front page and making them more obvious I think would be beneficial.
Getting to the list of forums I find useful (the using moodle forums) leads me through 4 pages and the forums page (moodle.org/forums) I think is very confusing.

A cool idea would be to get a list of forums the user has participated in onto the top navigation. I find I am always going back to the same 2 or 3 forums and it would be great to have a quick way to get to forums I am interested in. (This sort of comes back to the above idea that presently its a task to get to a forum).

Cheers
Sam

 
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Think I am older now :)
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

I use my moodle home page for that.  I have links to Lesson, Certificate Forums, MoodleDocs and a user lookup link.  But this is not dynamic.

I think Sam is  talking about the My courses tab or something like it?

I was thinking of  a moification of the side Nav block that would change the icon, or have an option to resort by tagged forums.   Right now I can expand  My courses, Using Moodle and Moodle core and see all the links in "topic" order.  It does not tell me which one's I have subscribed to or those that have threads I have marked for following (future improvement).   At least change the forum icon depending upon some contextual tag or condition.  

Something similar happens in my courses tab.

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I just posted an hour ago in a forum on a significant request to look at some ideas for improving UI.  It was in the developers forum because (obviously) it is poor practice to post all over the place, and developers feedback was looked for, but this developers conversation will also interest other people who have UI interests or even just to say +1 or -1 - especially as there was a real mockup to look at.  I missed this at the time.

All this to say: I'm interested in being able to keep up with discusions about feature improvements.  But it is hard and I do waste time.  By way of illustration, there are four discussions on at the moment that I have dipped into in the last week. 

These discussions are scattered all over Moodle.org and the Tracker.  I'm interested in all these aspects.

Parenthetically, I'm not even sure of the status of these posts.  Are they 'official' discussions or just musings aloud that may help some local hack get sorted and will not actually advance Moodle core yet? How do you know you are in a real conversation?

I'm also aware of the developer/designer/user difference in type of infomation and level of engagement.  I have worked with users that will engage in conversations, and even answer questions but not at the cost of 22,000 posts in just a few months.

So for this question we could consider:

  1. Some sort of stream twitter like feed of "new discussions about features and so on" that links to the various discussions
    Or a static page of links . . .
    OR
  2. A forum of it's own.  "Current discussions about Moodle futures" built around links to docs, etc etc.  It could even just have links to verious places where the conversations are happening.
    When I have done this in the past I have even had several Phases: "New spec for Forms handling DRAFT 1"  "Forms Handling mockup for feedback" "Final version out, comment on implementation"
  3. ??  TAGS ??

And firm moderation.  Shift and move discussions to DONE forum, "OK, discussion OVER we have finished coding, problems now to Tracker", or "This next month we want feedback on this spec, please have your say".  Or whatever.

This is one aspect of something I feel strongly about Helen.  Forum functionality in Moodle.  eg.  No permalinks to be able to accurately and easily point to a post.  The "Subscribe at discussion level" you mention.  The inability to post while seeing the whole thread.  No save drafts option.  All of which are in ForumNG.  Admins being able to push posts out to people.  <off soapbox now>

Good luck with this.

-Derek

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

I'm not sure that reducing the number of forums would make things easier for anyone, newcomer or oldtimer. If anyting, it is likely to make things messier if several forums for designated components are integrated into one big forum (e.g. Contributed plugins) or spread over several courses.

Newcomers may benefit from a few-steps wizard to guide them to the right place in first encounters.

Oldtimers have their routines. My routine, for example, is the following. I'm not subscribed to any forum, there is one forum I always check for new posts, and for the rest I scan the recent activity block a few times a day.

So improvements to the recent activity block may be helpful:

  • Show the forum name for each entry
  • Allow sorting (and categorizing) by forum
  • Allow clearing the block content (currently I must log out and log back in to clear the list)

One other possible improvement, already mentioned by Sam, would be a link to the 'using moodle' forums on the front page - not in a menu, but rather a big theme-dependent-color-or-image button, so that I click once and I'm there.

Or perhaps the recent activity block on the front page after login.

smile

 
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Picture of David Mudrák
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Forums are the heart of moodle.org so the attention should be paid there primarily IMHO. Beside per-thread subscription (which is really a must for moodle.org) I would welcome using per-thread and per-post tags. That way, threads might be tagged in the same manner as GMail uses labels for emails, for example. Ideally there are system/forced tags applied by moderators that are displayed to all users and then individual tags set and visible by a given user only.

Alternatively, instead of full support for individual tags, we might at least offer a functionality similar to the star in GMail or a flag in the Quiz module. So users might mark a thread or post as "starred" and then there would be a page that displayed such posts/threads only.

Automatic resizing of image attachments to a reasonable thumb-like size would be nice, too.

 
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Think I am older now :)
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Along these ideas for each forum, I would like  a "Search this forum" feature, rather than have to fill out an "advanced search" to limit my search to a particular forum. 

It should be at the top like Search moodle.org, not at the bottom of a forum page like MoodleDocs (which I find really annnoying).  wink

Chris

 
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Frank Ralf
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Documentation writers
Hi Chris,

You might try one or more of the search plugins for Firefox for a more targeted search on moodle.org, see Moodle search plugins for Firefox (which is a nearly three year old thread ...).

A screenshot can be found at http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Firefox and http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Firefox_tracker_search

hth
Frank

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

In addition to Frank's suggestion, I find that using google for searching moodle is usually much more effective than using moodle for searching moodle, discussions and tracker issues alike. Moreover, google will give you references to relevant and sometimes valuable information outside moodle.org. smile

 
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Picture of Helen Foster
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements - searching
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Chris, a 'search this forum' feature would be good... as long as we can be reasonably sure of finding discussion threads in the correct forum. wink

I agree that we need the Moodle Docs search at the top of each page. I have requested this already!

Itamar, I agree that google is ultimate search tool. I guess we'll keep the google-powered search of the various moodle.org sites.

 
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Think I am older now :)
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Read the earlier replies and agree with thread subscription context addition to Forums.  I like scrolling down the list of forums, but perhaps placing them in a few more courses would be productive.  

What about a tool to help those who are interested in finding the right forum: a decision tree with multiple choices.   For example a Lesson, drilling down to (or along the way seeing) a link to the best forum and perhaps MoodleDoc page.  

Just a thought.   I have been in general problems forum quite a bit recently because I am not sure where else to go.   That is the end of my decision treesmile

Chris

 
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Picture of Helen Foster
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Thanks everyone for all your ideas and suggestions. smile

Regarding Gavin and others' suggestion of breaking Using Moodle into separate courses, the main problem I see with this is that if people post in the wrong course by accident, it's not possible to move their post to the correct place. Thus I'd favour all forums in one course and maybe even moving the Lounge / Social forum back into Using Moodle.

Robert, your suggestion of an option to close certain threads is actually already available - threads can be moved to the Closed discussions forum - however it's hardly ever used.

Derek, as you point out, discussions about improvements and new features occur all over the place and it's a challenge keeping up with them. According to the developer documentation Process, major new features should have a specification in Moodle Docs with community consultation via a forum discussion. Should we have a specific forum for this, or use the general developer forum, or should developers post in one of the forums covering particular areas of Moodle? I'm thinking that maybe the general developer forum would put non-developers off from sharing their opinions. If we went for a specific forum for discussing new features, we could easily have a twitter stream fed by the forum RSS feed.

Itamar, my routine also involves scanning the recent activity block. Thinking of sorting by forum, have you tried using the Full report of recent activity?

David, your idea of tags sounds nice, though I guess we'd first have to clean up the existing tag functionality in Moodle, which appears to need some attention. wink

It seems we're in agreement that the forums should be easier to get to from the front page and per-thread subscription should be possible. Here's hoping for forumNG so we can also benefit from the other features Derek mentions.

Chris, regarding your suggestion of a decision tree, I remember this has been discussed before. Can anyone come up with an example of a website which uses it?

Thanks again for all your suggestions and please keep them coming!

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Thanks for the pointer Helen, however, the recent activity block still has some advantage over the report. Since I can't clear the list, I often stay logged in and refresh the page to see new posts. With the block I just need to look at the end of the list. With the report I need to re-scan the whole list. smile

 
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Mary Cooch
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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I do exactly the same as Itamarsmile Interesting how different people approach the front page of Moodle.

 
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Think I am older now :)
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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To expand. I was thinking of it more as an educational feature smile    "I am willing to spend 2 minutes clicking buttons to be led to a place that has the most people who are interested in my problem/observation" .  

I remember somebody way back when, saying they had developed a taxonomy tree for the animal kingdom using the  Lesson module. Currently, by making 3 choices with clicks, I can get to a page where I have 104 choices in a table of contents (Using Moodle course).   Both the community and support lead me to (a good thing), this long visual page (not so good).   What I am saying is that I would not give my students 104 choices in a Lesson content page if I am teaching them about the best place to ask their question smile

Which is one of the things we are discussingsmile  How do we organize things on the site that will work better for a variety of users.  Since I am truely handicapped by ignorance of many aspects of Moodle, I thought a supplimental tool (link) might be an idea.   I view the "search moodle.org" as a similar tool as is MoodleDocs.  Different ways to get to useful information.

Chris

 

 
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Picture of sam marshall
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Fewer forums would be nice. Perhaps five or so English-language forums divided by audience?

Teachers and administrators (general usage)
System administrators (configuration and performance)
Theme designers
Moodle programmers (working on core system or on plugins)
Feature request discussion

--sam

PS I didn't forget students, but not sure moodle.org hosts student discussions? If it does, obviously that would be another forum.

 
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Mary Cooch
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Documentation writersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup TestersGroup Translators

I'd agree with Sam in terms of fewer forums but tailored to audience. I remember having a discussion with Tomaz last summer regarding this - maybe something like on the front page a link/question "are you a teacher? click here" "Are you a developer? Click here" "Are you a theme designer? Click here "  I think people will always post in the wrong forums or courses however you set it up but fewer forums will make it easier to manage

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

I disagree. One of the great things about the quiz forum is that you get good interaction between teachers who use the quiz, and deveopers (not just me) who want to make the quiz better.

I would be sad to see that destroyed. Of course, the quiz forum is highter-volume than many others.

 
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Picture of Joseph Rézeau
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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I agree with Tim and totally disagree with the idea of "fewer forums". Fewer forums will mean "diluted" discussions, whereas keeping the number of forums as they are ensures (well, more or less, of course) that discussions are focussed and receive attention.

Joseph

 
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Picture of A. T. Wyatt
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
 

I also think that it is important to have spaces where developers AND users can converse.  I would be opposed to trying to segment the discussions into "beginners" or "advanced users", particularly if that segmentation took the form of separate courses.  I have certainly encountered a number of occasions when I felt like a beginner even if I *had* been doing something for a long time!  Or maybe I just thought I was doing it right. . .smile 

I also think that capturing that "first encounter" information is very important for making inprovements.  Once you have done something two or three times, you no longer see or can describe issues that might be improved from a UI perspective.

 
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Picture of Helen Foster
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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A. T. I totally agree with your point "it is important to have spaces where developers AND users can converse". I think that is one of the current strengths of the Using Moodle course and a reason to avoid separate courses.

 
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Davo
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Might be worth throwing in somewhere for people to discuss / suggest improvements / get support for particular contibuted plugins.

This way discussions are more likely to match up with the original developer (rather than getting lost in a 'general usage' forum, or being out of place in a 'developers' forum).

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Taking Davo's point re contrib and plugins etc: I am impressed with the Wordpress approach:

  • One plugin per page.
  • Tags
  • Direct link to a Forum on the plugin where discussion takes place to do with the plugin.

Needs a link to tracker items maybe?

Added bonus:

  • Notes about recent posts
  • News about other details (like web page, version number, release information)

This is a rolls royce version: good information on the plugin, dicsussion near the information, links to tracker, contained and not scattered around the forums.

-Derek

 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Everybody can assume that thread/discussion subscription is going to be possible soon.

Likewise, these forums are not the place to discuss individual feature requests and bugs: the Moodle Tracker is clearly the best place for that.

Contrib plugin discussions should probably be attached to each Moodle plugins page.

Personally I think we can do with much fewer forums if these are assumed, which would vastly simplify moodle.org in general and make it much more friendly as a place for community support and general brainstorming.

 
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Davo
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Could we have threaded comments on the plugins page, attachments and email notification, before we switch to using them instead of forums for discussing contrib plugins? I don't think the comments could currently cope with a discussion like this: http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=144764
 
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Picture of Tessa Holden
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
 

Did any useful ideas about this come out of the EU developers hackfest at your house earlier this month Helen?

 
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Picture of Joseph Rézeau
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Martin "...these forums are not the place to discuss individual feature requests and bugs: the Moodle Tracker is clearly the best place for that."

I do not quite agree. The forums are a good place for people to initiate a discussion about the potential usefulness of new individual features or to ask whether a "problem" they are encountering in their use of Moodle is - actually - a bug or not. Then, after some discussion has taken place, things can be taken to the tracker. In my experience of Moodle and the forums, this is what is currently happening and I think it is good.

Joseph

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Hi Helen, hallo everbody

I never visit this forum, I guess the term "design" in the title sounds to me like a never ending discussion on color! I had a suggestion to alleviate the problem visitors have in finding the correct forum which I posted in the Facilitators Corner, and was directed here.

Considering the scrope of the OP, I'm surprised at the small number of replies.

On Wed 15 Feb 2012 08:28 UTC Helen Foster wrote:
>
> We're planning a big redesign of moodle.org in the next few months (including a new theme) and would really like your ideas and suggestions of how to improve the site.

It is about the whole moodle.org, right? Isn't that a broad topic? I mean, from my end, http://moodle.org has seven menu headings having three to eight menu items each. Just one of them, http://moodle.org/forums/, branches to nine courses in english, not counting the 35 odd other language courses. Out of those nine courses in english I have been to perhaps 5 forums in the course "Using Moodle" and occationally to the social forum in the course "Lounge". Therefore my feedback is so narrow, I don't really know how useful it is for the whole picture.

Here are the places where I see a need for improvements, together with suggestions:

1. Visitors posting in the wrong forum in Using Moodle
Yes, this is a problem. Things we can do:
- compile a structured overview of all the forums. Ideally the names of the forums should be explanatory, but they are not. Example: Looking for an internet hoster the right forum is "Hardware and Performance". Here is a highly efficient solution: http://crunchbanglinux.org/forums/ (on that single page you see the name of each forum, a description, names of the moderators, no. of discussions, no. of posts, the last post by whom, time - for all forums! One click to filter for active topics and unanswered topics.)

2. The number of forums in Using Moodle
"We need more forums" or "We need less forums" is the wrong approach. The right one IMHO would be,

a. compile the "overview" in 1. above.

b. Go through the definitions list and see whether the "organic growth" has _obvious_ mistakes, looking at the detailed description., just study how the pieces of the puzzle fits together.

c. Please don't let "advisors" to take over. Let the people who know the stuff in "their" respective forums and as a result actively contribute in those, decide. In other words, the "number" of forums is not something the "managers" plan at the drawing board but evolve depending on the people you have on the front.

d. More discipline on the part of the moderators. Don't try to be "nice" and keep on talking in the wrong place, ... There is a short http://docs.moodle.org/en/Moodle.org_forums_Code_of_Conduct. You just have to implement it!

Non-topics for me (in this discusson)
- Theme! Ever found two people agreeing on a color? Let the theme being the standard theme of the latest stable version of Moodle. Period.

- More features: I have met people who need a number of features to get productive. Give them ten, they wait for the eleventh. I guess they are still waiting - and it is my fault!

- Usability. "Usability is what you are used to!"

- More search capabilities, couple to Google, etc. No, there is an excellent search facility in Moodle, just use it. If selecting the forum from a drop down list is too much for somebody, why does he teach? On top of that, we don't want to send the whole Moodle community in to the "filter bubble", do we?

- Design moodle.org for people whose horizon is the bottom of their screens (go below that, they die a "scroll of death!").
 
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Picture of Joseph Rézeau
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Hi Visvanath,

Just a couple of remarks on your remarks.

"d. More discipline on the part of the moderators. Don't try to be "nice" and keep on talking in the wrong place, ... There is a short http://docs.moodle.org/en/Moodle.org_forums_Code_of_Conduct. You just have to implement it!"

Totally agree!

"Usability. "Usability is what you are used to!""

+1

"... there is an excellent search facility in Moodle, just use it. If selecting the forum from a drop down list is too much for somebody, why does he teach?"

I have a small gripe about the Moodle forum search: the dropdown list "Choose which forums to search" is terribly long and... it should really be organized in alphabetical order.

Joseph

 

 

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Hi Joseph

Re-reading my post, I have to admit that the language could have been friendlier. I had a 'misunderstanding' earlier and tried this time to make the message as clear as possible - for a price.

To the topic, "excellent search facility in Moodle": Excellent but not perfect! wink
Yes, order of the forums are awkward, until I noticed that they appear in the same order as on the main course page, understandably not the right thing for the casual visitor.

There must be other short comings in this search compared to Google, for example. But Google have a few more bucks to invest than the most on this planet. But sacrificing the privacy of the whole Moodle community for that extra efficiency is not worth, IMO.

Having said that, the search field in the menu-bar of moodle.org, http://moodle.org/public/search, looks much like Google to me. So the purpose of the above point is lost anyway, I fear.
 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Visvaneth. Joseph.  More comments on comments.

"Usability. "Usability is what you are used to!""

I don't agree with this. eg

  • Editing a page in Moodle 1.9: Click
  • Editing a page in Moodle 2.0+.  Umm.  Scroll. Click (open menu).  Click (Edit on).

I'm now used to this.  Useability?  Not very good.  I dislike doing this.

And yes, Joseph: Sorting forums in dropdown

I don't think we have too many forums, just the wrong ones.

And while we are at it, some indication on how to get to advanced search?

And tracker for feature discussion.  At the next Moot, how about asking people about the tracker for some decent feedback?  This idea may be nice in their, but will not fly with the present scenarios.   IMO.  +1 to Davo's comment for threaded discussions first.  http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=196302#p855706  But I really don't think JIRA tracker is designed for this.

-Derek

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Hi Derek

Your first point: Forum in 2.x is less usable than in 1.9:
You may have a point. But my intention was not to discuss the general issue of usability in this thread. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) moodle.org is powered by Moodle. Understandably it is difficult to discuss moodle.org and not to discussion the software Moodle. For example, there is a forum "Usability" somewhere else.

That's why I was surprised at the beginning about the scope of the discussion ( http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=196302#p856602 ). I don't give this brain storm a big change of blowing anything.

Your second point: Forum list in the drop down list in alphabetical order
I agree.

Your third point: "I don't think we have too many forums, just the wrong ones."
May be. To judge that we need a (revised) overview (see the same posting quoted above).

Your fourth point: A tracker for feature discussion
Possibly. Before going for a new solution I would like to know the exact procedure for new features today?

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Re features development and contrib code in Moodle.org

FEATURE DEVELOPMENT CONSULTATION AND DISCUSSION

Visvanash, you say:

Your fourth point: A tracker for feature discussion
Possibly. Before going for a new solution I would like to know the exact procedure for new features today?

The official process for feature development is here: http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Process#New_feature_development 

Most of the time it is so busy and chaotic that we don't follow the process.  Community consultation is a bit fragmented, or not transparent, at worst non-existant.  In the past things often happened in late night chats over drinks at the currently occurring Moodle Moot, and you find out via tweets and blog posts. (That's official policy: "but you could also blog/tweet about it etc. ") but that seems to have quietened down in the last year.

It says regarding consultation  on features

"The forums on moodle.org are good for this"

but my point here is that thinking about findability, focus, location, process etc these feature discussions at best are not good.  There is a lot of wheelspinning and churn. I can actually live with this (after all most of us here are volenteers) but what is missing is resolution and conclusion.  Stuff is just getting talked about and not done.  Other stuff is not getting talked about and appearing fait accompli.

A forum "Feature Development" may help with focus, could help with the developer/admin/teacher divide.  It could help with centralising this aspect of work.  I've mentioned the current discussions that are not really noticed and currently lack engagement from users,  (For example: solving the scr*ll of death in Moodle 2, forums in Moodle 2, clean up and management of sections in Moodle 2 etc) - having a central place for this topic could help.  Cautiously optimistic.

At the moment this is my view anyway.

Tracker doesn't work at the moment.  No-one (OK, almost no-one) is using it consistently for this part of our task, not even really involved people.

CONTRIB

Here is my second attempt at hypothesising a tweak for Moode.org to help with contrib communication and focus.  Based on the wordpress model, add in the discussions and the documentation close to the other information:

Two extra tabs with the support form and docs really close to all the other information.

Take the update of GRID last week.  How many forum discussions needed a post to cover them all?  Maybe 4-7??  Instead of ONE forum for all users of Grid. 

OFF the topic

On another matter, I've just had an aha moment.  Many people are reluctant to move to 2 because they have so many patches, hacks, fixes and plugins applied to make what THEY consider essential functionality available.  eg, Solve enrolment problems, page problems multiple file uploads problems, tracking, attendance, dialogue, flexpage, shop cart etc etc.  We have not paid the price in terms of time and whatever to see these great ideas in the core, or updated for 2.  Nor are they in 2.  So we just get tired thinking of all the work to get things sorted for 2 and we delay.

-Derek

http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Process#New_feature_development 

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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I am with Visvanash here. The existing mechanisms are perfectly adequate for keeping track of all the new proposals that are coming along.

I guess the way I see all new proposals is by watching Recent changes in the dev wiki: http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Special:RecentChanges

I was hoping that, even if you don't want to glance at that from time-to-time, you could use the fact that all these pages include the Infobox_Project template would let you easily get a list of them: http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Special:WhatLinksHere/Template:Infobox_Project. However, that list is pretty useless. I wonder if we could change thigns so there are separate templates Infobox_Project_Proposal, Infobox_In_Development and Infobox_Project_Done. That would give us three lists that are more useful.

But, watching the General developer forum is the obvious way to keep track of new proposals. (Note that the project template includes a discussion link.) Here is a very recent example: http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=196939

When that discussion is better held in another forum (e.g. http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=188534) it should be common practice to post a brief 'You might be interested in this other dicussion' link in the GDF. However, I don't think that was done for the example I just gave. Oops.

The other trick is to follow Helen Foster on Twitter (or is it the official Moodle account you need to follow). Helen is very good at picking up on these key discussions, and tweeting a link to them.

 
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Picture of Joseph Rézeau
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Tim "... The other trick is to follow Helen Foster on Twitter..."

Hm, that's not an option for dinosaurs like myself who are very much averse to using Twitter, Facebook and the like.black eye

Joseph

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Hi Joseph

Talking of dinosaurs, apparantly "Male dinosaurs failing on social privacy" http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/24/women_smarter_men_social/.

You can not be in those statistics, if you are not in the "Twitter, Facebook and the like" - me too.
smile
 
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Picture of Danny Wahl
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Or if you're in a country where access to resources like Twitter and Facebook are not allowed...

 
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Just wondering . . .
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@Tim, when you say "The existing mechanisms are perfectly adequate for keeping track of all the new proposals that are coming along" do you mean in general or for you?

And I've got to ask: di you follow the twitter feeds you advocate? 

@Joseph: curious about your comment also: "not an option" because you have tried and it is Chaos, Complicated, Irritating (etc) OR inefficient OR you haven't tried OR you tried it and it didn't work OR you have evil social networking services OR  ???

I've just dipped into the #moodle @helen and more twitter streams.  May post my findngs later.  Lost cable for camera connection.

-Derek

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
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OK, perfectly adequate for me. Don't need more than a slight tweak for people in general. I mean the data is there in a reasonably orderly and well established form. It just needs to be exposed in a user-friendly way.

We don't need to introduce some complex new system for handling proposals, which is what you seeemed to be advocating.

I do follow the twitter accounts I mentioned. I do not follow the hash-tag #moodle. Do you remember this post: http://helenfoster.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/more-moodle-twitter-accounts/

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Tim,

We agree only partially. My thoughts were general. I don't know moodle.org well enough to say, whether they apply or not. Yes, my basic statement was, "Use the existing mechanisms". That is where we agree.

But implicitly it meant: "provided that there are mechanisms already available and they are not proven to be broken". With that we are in squre one. I'm still looking for the answer to the first part. See point 1 in my first post http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=196302#p856602. And the answer to the second part? Discard the brocken mechanisms first. People who "feel" or have insider knowledge avoid those places, but other waste time waiting in the wrong place.

I begin to understand the complain about too many forums. I too think some active insiders instinctively avoid those brocken mechanisms and move on to new places. The loyal people still waiting in the old place percieve the whole thing as a duplication.

In short, I don't know whether the exisiting mechanisms are adequate, unless somebody put the puzzle together (and throw away all the odd pieces)!
 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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You seem to be assuming that is something is broken, the only option is to throw it away and replace it with something completely different.

I am suggesting we first consider fixing any bits that are broken while trying to retain the existing system.

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Hi Tim,

I know, my reply comes late, sorry about that.

Just for the record: You say, "You seem to be assuming that is something is broken, ...".

Let's put it this way: I get the feeling that something is broken. Here are some of my reasons:
- The existance of this thread itself. It is an official request looking for "moodle.org improvements".

- A number of key people in moodle.org are not using moodle.org as their medium. The community is supposed to follow them in blogs, twitter, etc. (I'm thankful that Facebook is not amoung them.)

- Lot of people, some key persons amoung them, are looking for "new" things.

We had our side discussion, in my previous post I wanted to know what is brocken and see the proof. No answers so far. Obviously, the answers are not important anymore, since a redesign is already coming.
 
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Picture of Joseph Rézeau
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Visvanath Ratnaweera: (I'm thankful that Facebook is not among them.)

Me too.approve

 
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Just wondering . . .
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Tim, some comments.  Your words in Italics.

OK, perfectly adequate for me. Don't need more than a slight tweak for people in general.  I mean the data is there in a reasonably orderly and well established form. It just needs to be exposed in a user-friendly way.

Adequate for you, yes, but I'm talking about people in general.  I'm trying to figure out what the "slight tweak" is.  I am actually saying that from an outsider, or a dabbler or a google searcher, key discussions in some areas are NOT reasonably ordered and in a well established form.  They are often scattered (over talk pages, wiki pages, discussions in forums and multiple tracker items).  Exposed in a user friendly way.  Yes.  I'm not convinced twitter has quite got thi syet.

We don't need to introduce some complex new system for handling proposals, which is what you seeemed to be advocating.

No I am not.

I do follow the twitter accounts I mentioned. I do not follow the hash-tag #moodle. Do you remember this post: http://helenfoster.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/more-moodle-twitter-accounts/

Yes I remember it.  One of my consistent concerns is no established pattern, central place, process for feature development.  This list of feeds doesn't address this issue.  There is a written process in the docs that is not followed very much.  Decisions are often whispered in obscure forums.  It's partly "One mans critical is another mans trivial" partly busyness, partly squeeky wheel. etc.

Look at the six twitter feeds: almost all for developers, fixes, bugs, commits, jobs.  Look at Helen's twitter stream.  Great of course, but how much is it really focused on new features, and how much on needed community social lubrication.

Take our audience: if person X arrives at Moodle with questions about the future of Moodle, where do they go?  Roadmap.  They are unlikely to quickly luck onto the developers meeting notes.  Say they have an interest in Formats, forums, Martin's comments, news on themes for Moodle future: this colnversation is scattered all over the place.

If person X wants to keepup with things - there is no consistent feed, or central forum or anything.  Subscribe to the relevant forums in Moodle and shortly you will have 19,265 mails (my count from 10 seconds ago).  Tracker is working better in the last months, but not quite there yet for features.  I am very clear: I am not saying nothing is happening, not saying that bad things are happening, just the process causes me a lot of grief and frustration if I am to get any sort of clear idea on what is going on so I can make any sort of informed decision about using Moodle.  Moodle core is still basically a pain to use out of the box.  You know this Tim, with umpteen tweaks and now bits like wiki, blog, forum and formats.

FEATURE DEVELOPMENT

Feature development needs the time and attention to keep the process open and transparent, and to help provide reliable information in a timely way to people wanting to catch up and keep up.  Maybe even have some input.

My proposal has these elements:

  1. IMO There needs to be a dedicated forum: Feature development Current.  [Plus Feature development (Archives) - just dump all olde discussions here]  IMO Not tracker, unless it is a little easier to use and threaded - which I can't see happening.
    I'm not debating the plus and minus of forums here.  But I am saying Tracker will not work.
  2. Use this Forum to provide links to other places where discussion is occurring.  (Like developers minutes, blog posts, white papers, tracker items, docs pages, docs talk pages etc) 
  3. Allow this forum to contain discussions on new feature conversations.
  4. Provide a twitter feed on Feature development news.  I'd say this would have maybe a few tweets a week. 
  5. Have the feed on the Moodle.org home page in a form that people can just browse back through quickly for the non tweeters amongst us.
  6. See what happens.

We have several version of the docs, but no Moodle 2 specific forums, a decision I have puzzled over.  I have been waiting for someone else to post a list of  "my ideas on Moodle 2 forums" but I'll give in and put my head above the parapet.

Suggested list of forums to help with the Moodle 2 discussions on Moodle.org

  • Moodle 2 General problems
  • Doing the Migration Moodle 1.9 > 2.0
  • Upgrading Moodle 2.X questions
  • Moodle 2 Server, installation and performance
  • Moodle 2 Contrib - more news and general, incl developers - (Given I agree with other posters there should be forums in the plugins section for each theme/contrib plugin)
  • Moodle 2 Teaching Ideas/strategies + questions
  • Moodle 2 Design: workflow, tips questions
  • Moodle 2 Admin: workflow, tips questions
  • Moodle 2 Developer questions
  • Moodle 2 Feature Development
  • Moodle 2 Documentation hub
  • Moodle 2 Activities and Resources
  • Moodle 2 complaints and moans.  (Deleted every 8 hours starting at 6.00am NZ time.

This is the Clay Shirky taxonomy problem.  http://www.shirky.com/writings/ontology_overrated.html  But just because we can't get it perfect so everyone agrees doesn't mean we should give up.

Back to other work.

 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Hi Derek, and all.

Thanks for the posts so far.

About feature development, the main stuff is going on inside Moodle HQ in links from the Roadmap, but it's probably my fault for not bring that more into forums recently (just soooo busy).  I like the idea for a forum dedicated to these current topics (assuming it just doesn't become a too-noisy place where everyone is promoting their favorite feature request du jour).

Apart from that, I'd like to see a fairly radical shift in restructuring moodle.org to cope with the increased numbers and the more international focus.

1. ALL the plugins discussion definitely needs to be shifted out and all plugins treated with equality.  I think one new course called Plugins with auto-created forums for every new plugin in moodle.org/plugins.   These would be automatically linked to from moodle.org/plugins, and used for GENERAL discussion and support about the plugin.   Likewise, every new plugin should have a component in the tracker to handle bugs and feature requests for it (unless the author wants to use their own bug tracker somewhere else).

2. All the general core development discussions (which are international, and conducted in Moodle's official development language English) should also be put in a separate course.  Originally I set them up here in Using Moodle intentionally to promote user/developer interaction, but our numbers have grown beyond this, and we have the tracker now, so I no longer think it's a big advantage.   We can rationalise these forums down to a small number, and yes, a dedicated Feature Development forum would be great.

3.  All the remaining forums in Using Moodle can become the core of a new "English Support" course.  I would also collapse some of the other English courses like "Lounge", "Language teaching" and "Business Uses" into single forums and migrate them to this course as well.   All the support forums (and special interests) in English discussing the use of Moodle would be in one course.   This course can be a model for all the other support courses in other languages.

4.  The "Useful" forum rating system that we have here in this course (from which the Recently rated posts feed is produced) has proven very useful as a democratic way of highlighting good forum content and popularising it across Twitter and everywhere.   I propose we extend this across the site to all the different support forums in all languages, and use these feeds to populate the moodle.org front page.  So if you arrive at moodle.org using a Japanese browser, not only will all the menus and top-level pages be in Japanese, but you will see a feed of recently rated posts taking up half the page there, with an invitation to see more, and get straight into the Japanese support course.

5.  The tracker seems to be bagged here a bit but I think people are forgetting that the tracker is the most convenient thing for Moodle developers, enabling them to truly keep track of hundreds or thousands of tiny little requests, ideas and highly focussed discussions.  And after all developers are the ones doing the work of creating and improving the software.  It has revolutionised how we manage Moodle development among hundreds and thousands of people.  Users should not mind doing just a little basic categorising and sorting of their ideas to make it easier for developers.   That said, there's a lot we can do to improve the tracker interface for users and that is ongoing.  But please let's focus on how to IMPROVE the tracker not AVOID the tracker.      MDLSITE-1737

With those basics in place I think we'll have a much clearer community site that invites people world-wide to join in.

Who's with me??  big grin

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
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Most of this is a very good plan, but there is one bit that concerns me with points 2. and 3.

The Moodle project was, during the time of your PhD thesis, an investigation of whether an open source community could be a social-constricutivist learning community, where teachers, developers, and others all learn from each other how and what to make Moodle by actually building it.

I think that is an excellent model, and in the quiz forum at least, that mutual learning occurs. I, at least, learn a lot there. (And, as I have said in the past, it concerns me that many HQ developers do not seem to have time to engage in that sort of learning in the forums.) What you are proposing in 2. and 3. seems likely to destroy that aspect of the quiz forum.

Have I misunderstood your proposal, or are my fears well-founded?

 
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Martin in black and white
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You are probably the best example of an engaged developer that I could point to, Tim!  And yes, I agree forums are essential for big picture stuff.  And there should be plenty of links and a site map and feeds to facilitate serendipity.

The question of building in time for HQ developers specifically to spend more time in the community forums (in addition to fixing bugs and talking with users in the tracker) is not related to separating forums.  Simply improving forum organisation will probably help people stay interested.   Also, one of the things we have been doing is clarifying the role of component lead for many of those at HQ, and definitely a big requirement of that must be keeping tabs on the related public forum.

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
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I think I'm with both of you on this - I can see the benefits of Martin's suggestions, but I would also like to ensure that the developers don't get separated out from the 'main' forums - their input in the forums is vital to those of us in the community trying to develop ourselves (as well as our moodle knowledge/skills smile). And that's not taking into account the points raised about the developers seeing the comments coming from the community - it's a two way street for the communication.

Whether the solution is in the detail of the (re)organisation of the site, or in more external/human factors - such as building time into the role of the HQ developers, I'm not sure - probably both smile

Looking forward to seeing how it all develops

Richard

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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I just picked up on another detail of this that I am not sure about.

In point 1. you say "auto-created forums for every new plugin in moodle.org/plugins"

While the equality part of clause 1. is excellent, I think one forum per plugin is just too fragmented.

In some cases is makes perfect sense. One forum for each activity modules seems to work as a very nice size.

But, one forum for each question type? That seems silly. If you must split it from the quiz forum, then I feel that one forum to be shared by all question types would be better.

Similarly, a single forum for all enrolment plugins makes more sense to me that a separate forum for each plugin.

The gradebook forum seems to have a reasonable volume of traffic, so I don't see any point splitting that up. Let that be the place to discuss all grade reports, import and export, and the core gradebook features.

That is my suggestion, anyway.

 
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Martin in black and white
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So where do we draw the line between plugin types and plugins and how do we make that clear?  http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Plugins

I think a lot of people will only be interested in one plugin, rather than a whole class of plugins, and it should be easy to get to the discussions about that one plugin.

Is it enough to say: one forum per plugin type, except for activities?   I guess individual plugin discussion then just become threads and are much harder to locate.  On the other hand, it may encourage more cross-fertilisaton and cooperation.

Ideas?

 
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Picture of Helen Foster
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I'm not sure about a separate course for plugins, as I think it will remain a source of confusion knowing which course to post in, and we still have the problem of not being able to move threads between courses.

If forum thread subscription is coming soon, can't we manage with all forums within one course, and perhaps encourage people to include the plugin name in the subject line of the post?

I'm not sure about one forum per plugin type either, as it will mean a list of 35 forums, and what about the areas of Moodle which are not plugins?

Picking up on something Visvanath suggested in an earlier post, "a structured overview of all forums", this sounds to me like http://moodle.org/mod/forum/index.php?id=5. Any ideas for improving it?

PS No need to worry about Facebook as I'm another dinosaur!

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
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Hi Helen

You wrote:
> Picking up on something Visvanath suggested in an earlier post, "a structured overview of all forums",

You mean point 1 in this http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=196302#p856602 ?

> this sounds to me like http://moodle.org/mod/forum/index.php?id=5.

Sorry, no. Compare it with the example I've linked http://crunchbanglinux.org/forums/ :

The major problem is that the column "Description" in your page is just a cropping of the introduction to the corresponding forum. But this column is different, it must tell which type of questions to there and should fit (contentwise) into the allowed space.

I find the names of the moderators are important.

Number of threads and posts, the time of the last post are also nice to get an idea how active the forum is.

And the links "Active topics" and "Unanswered topics" (to the right close to the top) are absolute luxuries!

 
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Picture of Helen Foster
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Thanks Visvanath, I think most or all of your suggestions are do-able. Regarding unanswered topics, I remember there used to be an unanswered discussions block.

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
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Hi Helen

Good to know that my suggesions are feasible, technically.

The next question is what the webmaster, "facilitators", moderators and other old hands in moodle.org think. I don't want to be responsible for features in moodle.org which nobody except myself needs.
 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
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Hi Helen

Do we have usage statistics of the individual forums in 'Using Moodle', figures like no. of hits, no. of posts, no. of subscribers?
 
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Picture of Helen Foster
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Hi Visvanath,

The number of discussions in each forum is listed here: http://moodle.org/mod/forum/index.php?id=5

I don't know whether the number of subscribers for each forum would tell us much, as I imagine many people monitor forum activity via RSS.

I can find the number of views in the last 35 days for each activity and resource in Using Moodle in the course activity report. The most viewed activity is the general developer forum, with 10075 views, followed by general problems with 9945 views, then the themes forum with 5853 views.

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
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Hi Helen,

While the discssion so far has concentrated on the forums - although that's definitely the part of moodle.org I use the most, I don't think I really have much to add to that discussion beyond the importance of not separating discussions into beginner/advanced or developer/admin/teacher - how many times do we see beginners become regular forum contributors, how else do many teachers become small scale system admins and begin to become a developer etc. except through learning through the community? How else to developers stay in touch with the problems experienced by a new user? I think one of the strengths of the community forums is the interaction of everyday users and regular enthusiasts and the developers.

 

My main point was - in this reorganisation, don't leave out the other main area of the site - Docs. Again, I don't have much to say to move the discussion forward in this case - primarily because I find the right/best Docs so difficult to find that I rarely use them. I rely so much on links other people post in the forums or using the Moodle search - which then provides me with links to pages and pages of search results, sometimes going back several years and relating to older versions of Moodle (as in 1.6/1.7 on one recent occasion) and a complete mix of forum posts and Docs.

There has to be a better way of organising these docs - or maybe not the Docs themselves, but a front end for them that enables both searching and browsing through some sort of index tree? I'm thinking not so much of the developers and of the regular users, but of the people who come to the site wanting their first few steps guided through. I'm also thinking of myself and how I prefer to learn new information - when I need to find something specific the search tool is OK, but I also want to learn more about other parts of Moodle and there is another reason for a browsing style of entry to the docs.

More and more I think 'new' users are resorting to posting direct to the forums for the same information over and over because the Docs are not obvious to find/read. In most cases the information is there, in the docs, but it is then having to be pointed out again and again to different users. Yes, perhaps people should make better use of the search facillities and do more digging themselves, but I also realise that as an ex-full time teacher, who at the time was also taking his first steps in admininstering the school site and in developing and so on - a situation many of our newer community members are in - time is a precious commodity and one that we would win many friends if we could minimise that time spent finding important information.

I'm afraid at 5am I don't have solutions to suggest, but perhaps an opening to widen the discussion beyond just the forums smile

Richard

 
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Martin in black and white
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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The docs had a big rewrite/restructure last year.  Have you seen http://docs.moodle.org lately?

They will get a significant theme/navigation upgrade soon too, which will make it much easier to see the current version and jump between different versions.

I think it's right this discussion should focus on the Moodle site here for now, though of course the docs should be well integrated.

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
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Hi Martin,

Yes I'm aware of the rewrite last year and I've seen the docs. They are a major improvement, I think your comment about a theme/navigation upgrade is basically what I was trying to suggest, but you obviously already have it planned - I still think, again as you have already identified, that it is the different versions that sometimes causes the confusion. I do not in anyway mean my comments to be taken as a criticism of the site and tools or the hard work gone into moodle.org and the documentation, but hope they are taken in the spirit of making a good tool even better.

Perhaps the fact that I treated the docs.mmoodle.org as possibly being part of this discussion is a positive sign that the integration is already very good smile

Richard

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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Talking of website design, this article http://websitehelpers.com/design/ is a gem. Especially the section F "Make it Easy to Find Stuff", points F1 and F2 in particular, are relevant to the discussion.
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Ideas needed: moodle.org improvements
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This site is like any one of dozens or so others, they all say the same basic thing.."This is what you have to avoid to make an easy to use site..." I have been using this site, "Vincent Flanders Web Pages that Suck" as a guide as to what not to do for as long as I can remember teaching it all. (Such ICT skills are not required in the secondary education system here so I no longer teach it.) The complaints are always the same, clutter and unclear layout, lack of "intuitive" progression, poorly designed links, complex processes to achieve a simple goal, all things basic Moodle is guilty of, and I am constantly astounded at the number of seriously inventive ways in which people make such a mess of their web sites. I still go there, just for a laugh some times.  

 
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