Plugins traffic

Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface

 
Picture of David Mudrák
Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
Group Core developersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developersGroup Plugins guardiansGroup TestersGroup Translators

We are pleased to reveal the first stage of Moodle’s longer term Plugins directory project - a fresh new and user-friendly front page.

Screenshot of the new interface

With more and more plugins being submitted on a regular basis, Moodle community members and users have asked for particular features that would allow them to find and easily access the plugins that they really need.

And so here at Moodle HQ, we’ve listened and started on a project that aims to achieve two important outcomes:

  • improve the overall user interface and experience of the plugins directory
  • using more of the latest functionalities and technology of Moodle core versions to power the plugins directory

Moodle HQ worked with community members to do initial research into the look and feel of similar sites globally and analysing recommended patterns of UI development before building and testing a number of prototypes, to come up with this new user friendly interface.

With this new interface, you can expect the following from the Moodle plugins directory:

  • a modernised front page that lets you see the plugins card appear instantly as you change the filter form so there is no need to reload whole page
  • ability to search plugins based on ‘purpose’ and whether they can be used for communication, assessment, collaboration, administration or interface. This tagging will enable Moodle users to look and find the right plugin based on their requirements.
  • more advanced filtering options by using the ‘purpose’ search fields and also ‘plugin type’ drop-down menu to refine your search for the right plugin.
  • more accurate and relevant search results, displayed in a user-friendly way as a result of rewriting the whole plugins search engine.
  • and importantly, have more fun when browsing the plugins directory because it is more user friendly and accurate! A bit like surfing, as these new features in the plugins directory are being powered by the latest Moodle core functionalities.

Try it out today and we look forward to getting your feedback and thoughts in this forum!

Thank you!

 
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Picture of Fernando Acedo
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Great job and the result is impressive Yes

Congratulations David and everybody involved.

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Glad to see a familiar look and feel to the interface. It will definitely make the experience better.

You said, "A bit like surfing, as these new features in the plugins directory are being powered by the latest Moodle core functionalities". So, does that mean the plugins database is now a Moodle plugin, or using an existing Moodle plugin? I could see database layout like this very useful for any Moodle sites.

mike

 
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Picture of David Mudrák
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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What I meant is that the implementation of this new front page makes use of the latest patterns and libraries shipped with recent Moodle version, with no need of any extra frameworks. Most significantly this includes the asynchronous rendering of mustache templates. Various parts of the Moodle UI are being or have been re-implemented in a similar way, such as the new assignment grading in 3.1 or the messaging in 3.2.

 
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Randy Thornton
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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While it is a definite improvement on the front plugins page - especially the sorting which is very! nice - it is definitely not on the search view overall:

Now when you search, you always get images returned with the search results, and they take up huge amounts of real estate and are not really very informative.  There are far fewer search results per page than before, and you must scroll at lot more and load more many more pages to find what you need.

In addition, when when you click something you now have to click TWICE to get to it, since the summary pops up and you must click again to go into the actual page. Or click again to dismiss it. Sow I have to click twice to get where I want even when I know I want that page.

There should be a way to click directly into the item and skip the pop up.

Overall, you've added a lot of extra work for me in every search result. It's actually more efficient to use the site Google search now.

A good model for this is - of all things - Craigslist, where I can set the results to one of three modes: text list mode, thumbnail mode, or larger image mode.

So I suggest that would be far better, since it facilitates both searching for something specific as well as a casual type of browser through the pictures mode.

And a show # of results per page would be very welcome to with the usual sorts of values like 20, 50 or 100 per page.



 
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Martin Dougiamas
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Randy, you're what we might call a power user.  I think there might be other ways to do what you need without resorting t text-only search results.   For example you can make a list of your favourite plugins.  

Can you describe exactly what kinds of tasks you do that require frequent searching?

 
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Randy Thornton
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Martin,

Yes, I am often in "research" mode, where I have a set of user/client requirements to "find a plugin that does X for us."

So, I will put in some key terms that will try to bring up a large number of possible plugins and then I will try to whittle those down to a smaller list.

The difficult part of that is that items are called by different names or terms but may do similar things. Different countries, educational levels, industries etc have different terminology for the same types of activities. So I must cast a wide net.

I may have search results that are 40 or 50 items or even more. Being able to see all those at a glance in one list with short descriptions allows me to immediately see what to exclude and include as terms on a narrower search, and I re-search to narrow the list.

The new "Purpose" pull down can help in some cases but those are really broad categories. I love the new "Recently updated" sort, which is just gold, but it is only a sort, and I still have to scroll and load multiple pages.

When I get down to a small list of results, a handful, the images become helpful. But not until then. (This is similar to the issues with components like Grid course format or themes like Adaptable with blocked  course summaries: they work great as long as you have a small number of visually distinct items and  minimal scrolling .)

I mentioned before that I think Craigslist does a good job with this. David mentioned in another reply that the ability to have "modes" of the return results was planned for, which is good. That would be very helpful.

- Randy


 
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Picture of David Mudrák
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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There should be a way to click directly into the item and skip the pop up.

Middle click on the plugin name on the front page (or whatever you have to do to open a link in a new tab) should work.

I can set the results to one of three modes

Yes, different people have different preferences. This variability (known from google drive and other places) is for sure something that can be added in the future. The code has been designed with this requirement in mind.

 
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Randy Thornton
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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David

Thanks for the tip, but that middle click straight into the actual page should be in the interface: it's a classic example of violating the "Don't Make Me Think" principle, since there's no object or indicator in the interface for those choices: I have to remember and think about that.

Making the summary view the default is okay, but there should be a clear indicator - link, icon, button - right in the search results indicating letting me go to summary or the actual page.

The summary is a good idea, I don't mean to say it is not, since it can solve the whole issue of clicking into the plugin page and losing your search results page. Provided people write good summaries ;)

I'm glad to hear you have designed to add the variability. Hope that is a priority. Overall, the improvements, especially the sorting options, are excellent.

 
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Randy Thornton
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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David,

I just want to say that, the image real estate issue aside (which I admit is a pet peeve of mine smile, this is really a great facelift to the site. Overall, it is much improved.

And I hope it will encourage plugin maintainers to do a better job with their descriptions and images.

Many of them do a great job, so it is easy to know what their plugin does and how it looks.

But that information is lacking in many plugins (even some otherwise excellent ones that perform well).  I hope this facelift will encourage them to improve the screen images, and in their descriptions to consider the types and range of keywords they use, which will lead to better search results. 


- Randy

 
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Picture of David Mudrák
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Yes, totally agree. We are continuously reminding the contributors that not only the plugin code itself but also its presentation in the plugins directory is important. And we are slowly raising expectations and requirements there (such as a requirement for attached screenshots and other fields).

 
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Picture of David Mudrák
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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There should be a way to click directly into the item and skip the pop up.

Just to let you know, clicking the plugin name link (the very first line on the card) now opens the plugin page directly, clicking anywhere else on the card opens the preview modal. The position of the modal has been also slightly improved so that it better fits smaller screens.

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Hi David -

"the implementation of this new front page makes use of the latest patterns and libraries shipped with recent Moodle version, with no need of any extra frameworks"

Yes. Great! So the code would be a great example for developers to look at in order to do similar work with their plugins. Even if the plugins database code isn't transferable "as is", it could provide some great base work to build from.

mike

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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So, where can we see the code that does this? I think it would provide great examples for the dev community.

mike

 
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Picture of Gavin Henrick
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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HI Mike,

There is no plan to release these customisations. However I know that the documentation is being improved as part of the developer tutorials which should cover these areas.

Gavin.

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Hi Gavin:

There is no plan to release these customisations.

Why? Surely they can only help improve community development work? Even if you just post a link to the Git repo, so that the code can be looked at?

mike
 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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If you want to see examples of the new style of code, look at the new competencies stuff, or the new assignment grading interface in Moodle 3.1.

It is old news that Moodle HQ don't want to release the code of the plugins DB. (Google the old forum threads from when the plugins DB was new.) They want a single global repository of Moodle plugins, rather than a fragmented mess that might arise if other people could easily set up competing repositories. I can see the logic in that.

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Hi Tim -

You said, "rather than a fragmented mess that might arise if other people could easily set up competing repositories".

That's one of the factors of Open Source. You take the good with the bad. Surely we are all well aware of the both the pitfalls and rewards of open code.

But, it is open source. So it should be available for us to review, use, modify to our heart's content. As a whole or by chopping useful pieces (like the display code).

So, I ask again, please point us to the code repo. If it is using the Moodle display API as stated, then it is by GPL rules, part of the Moodle code and bound by the same GPL version 3 license. At least the part that runs within the Moodle codebase.

mike

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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GPL says: when you distribute you code, you must give them all the same rights you have (to use, modify and redistribute). It does does not say you must distribute your code.

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Hi Tim -

You are correct. You do not have to set up a distribution point for your code. But you are supposed to provide the code to people who run the application, on request. And the spirit of the Moodle I know has always been supportive of that.

There is an "ASP loophole" in GPL3 and earlier that does not require providers of ASP-services via open source code to provide their source code if that is the only way the code's function is delivered. The plugins database may fit into that loophole, but disappointing if that's the argument.

Interestingly, the plugins database does request (requires I believe) a source repository for any plugin submitted to it, as part of the approval process (https://docs.moodle.org/dev/Plugin_contribution_checklist#Code_repository_name).

mike

 
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Martin Dougiamas
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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The reason for keeping our plugins code internal to Moodle HQ is because I believe very strongly that a single official plugins database with reliable data and processes contributes to the strength of this project.    

You've made it very clear you want our code to set up an alternative Moodle plugins database.  Using the official code would make it look confusingly similar to the official one and I won't support that.   Other open source projects have experienced a lot of problems when multiple repositories are set up everywhere, with different versions of the same plugins in them etc.  I want to protect us from that outcome and maximise our combined efforts to keep quality high.

It's nothing to do with licenses.  Thousands of people don't distribute their modified versions of Moodle code, including your services company Remote Learner, and that is fine.  No one, least of all me as the overall copyright license holder, is saying they need to.

If anyone truly wants to help develop the official plugins database then get in touch with me directly.

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Thanks for the response Martin. I thought there might have been something else behind this.

Let me set some things straight.

"You've made it very clear you want our code to set up an alternative Moodle plugins database."

Actually, I don't. And I've made that very clear numerous times to no avail. While POET does want to provide a level of certification around plugins, we have no interest in being an alternate plugins database. We'd much prefer that such features are part of the existing plugins database, as I have specified in numerous posts here and elsewhere. It is why I have offered our help to Moodle for such endeavors. We have set up pages on our site that provide our tests and reviews of a variety of Moodle plugins, but they all link directly back to the Moodle plugins database. In fact, when I offered our test and review results for inclusion as reviews in the Moodle plugins database, they were refused numerous times.

Quite frankly, if someone did want to set up an alternate plugins database, they could, using a number of other tools out there. That's just a fact of working in an Open world.

But, I'll state it again, POET does not want to set up an alternative Moodle plugins database.

"Thousands of people don't distribute their modified versions of Moodle code,"

Agreed. Distribution is not required by the GPL. Providing the GPL code that is used by someone, when that someone requests it, is required by the GPL (except for the ASP loophole). And certainly is intended for the spirit of Open Source.

"including your services company Remote Learner, and that is fine."

I do sit on the board of Remote-Learner, and Remote-Learner invests in POET. But, to my knowledge, all software bound by the GPL that has been created by Remote-Learner has been made available to the open source community. If you know different, let me know, and I will request it from them.

But, to the original question, I personally want to see how the plugins database uses the new Moodle API's to produce the interface it does. I believe that type of interface could be useful in many Moodle plugin developments.

Mike

 
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Picture of Dan Marsden
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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If HQ released the code I know of at least one organisation that would almost immediately spin up a plugins database that looks almost the same as the official one! - We've also had conversations here at Catalyst when one of the team thinks it would be a great idea to spin up a local plugins database with our own plugins and plugins we have reviewed/approved for install on our clients sites... Hopefully common-sense would prevail and we'd come to a realisation that a copy of the plugins db isn't really needed for this purpose.

It would be nice to see the code as an example of using the Moodle API's and it's possible there's an itch I'd like to scratch by patching the plugins db code but I already have plenty of other work to keep me busy!

If releasing the code has the potential to make it harder for normal users to navigate/find plugins I'm ok with HQ keeping the code private - especially if they dedicate appropriate resource to maintaining and improving it.

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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My understanding was that neither GPL2 or 3 requires that a developer releases the code for web based applications.  When it comes to issue of intellectual property I reccomend not relying on the idea of  "the spirit of" for very much at all.

 
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Picture of David Mudrák
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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There is nothing in GNU GPL v3 that would force you to provide the source code of a GPL'ed software you use to run a web site. As a plugin reviewer, you are surely aware of it.

Mike, you are not a beginner in Moodle forums politics. You know how to play a noise string to make waves and I must respect it. But I have stopped replying at certain point. Participating in such flame discussions is not how I want to spend my time.

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Sadly, this was not intended to be political or a flame discussion. But I did need to answer the accusations. I have no evil ulterior motives. I just want to provide better looking interfaces in the plugins we care about.

So, if you won't release the module, how about just the parts that provide the display portions? I do understand if that is too difficult to separate out though. If that's the case, I guess we wait for the documentation Gavin mentioned.

mike

 
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Picture of David Mudrák
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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There is no magic in the new front page code. To implement it, it is enough to get familiar with the existing documentation, such as

 
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Picture of Justin Hunt
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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I don't want to take the gloss off the hard work that went into making the new plugins directory UI. I think its great. But I kind of agree with Mike that the community could make use of that code.

In my case I have immediate need for such a directory for providing a place to share and get Generico and VideoEasy templates. I'm guessing we are way past a preset for the Database activity module these days.

 
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Picture of David Mudrák
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Why not to publish the templates in a special category inside the plugins category or moodle.net then?

 
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Picture of Ramon Eixarch
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
 

Hi David,

Really a great job. Been looking forward to it for a long time.

We are interested to understand how does the Relevance criteria work.

@wirismath filter is the first math plugin to appear if you filter by Sites or Downloads.

The first plugin to appear if you filter by Relevance has a lower adoption, little downloads and was last updated more than one year ago.


 
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Picture of David Mudrák
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Hi Ramon. And thanks for raising a good question here.

Firstly, I would really like to avoid any kind of "let us cheat the search engine so that we are at the top" attempts. We will continuously improve the search engine so that it returns valid information for users. But we all also have other things to work on and I personally think it is a great and valid that all WIRIS plugins are returned at the top when searching for "math".

To explain the behaviour in details:

If there is no keyword provided (e.g. when the front page is loaded without any search query), the "by relevance" actually behaves as an alias for "recently updated". So that by default, we display recently updated plugins on the front page. The reasoning is that in this case, users are checking for recent traffic in the plugins world. So recently updated plugins are most relevant for them.

If there is a keyword searched for (such as "math" in your case), the "by relevance" sorts the plugins according to how they match the query. Plugins with a match in the name should appear among first, followed by plugins with a match in frankenstyle name, plugins with a match in short description etc.

In the particular case you describe, all the plugins at the top have the string "math" in their name. For technical reasons of how the database query is constructed and executed to achieve a good performance, we are forced to further sort records by the plugin internal identifier (id in a database table). At the moment, this part sorts by id in descendant order, so it effectively propagates recently added plugins over the ones registered long ago. Which in your particular case is the reason why both "Mathslate for Atto" (id 1370) and "Search On Math" (id 1339) are before your "WIRIS plugin for Atto" (id 1191).

The alternative to display oldest plugins first does not always work well, and does not give much space for modern plugins to beat older and often unmaintained (if not dead) ones. I can see a space for improvements, such as to try and take the number of sites using the plugin into account, too (for the second round of sorting before ordering by id). But as I said, there are also other projects and issues to work on.

In either case, please feel encouraged to raise further suggestions in the tracker. Thanks.

 
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Picture of Ramon Eixarch
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
 

David,

clear and transparent explanation. Thanks.

 
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Picture of David Mudrák
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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For the record, the behaviour has been changed recently and now the number of sites having the plugin installed is taken into account when displaying results by matching relevance. Details at https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=343561#p1385040

 
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Picture of Fernando Acedo
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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Hi David, could you explain what exact formula you use to calculate the relevance?


If you take a look to themes, the result is totally opposite to the reality.


The theme with less downloads, sites and favourites is the first in the list and Adaptable is the sixth with much more downloads, installs and favourites.

Also, as someone said, it is confusing when you click in a box. You open a pop-up window instead go to the page. Maybe if you click the image could open the pop-up and any other click redirect the user to the plugin page.

 
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Picture of David Mudrák
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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the result is totally opposite to the reality

I think the result is expected. As I was trying to explain in the post above

If there is no keyword provided (e.g. when the front page is loaded without any search query), the "by relevance" actually behaves as an alias for "recently updated". So that by default, we display recently updated plugins on the front page. The reasoning is that in this case, users are checking for recent traffic in the plugins world. So recently updated plugins are most relevant for them.

In your screenshot there is no keyword searched for, so recently updated themes are listed first.

 
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Picture of Fernando Acedo
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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So do you mean "Relevance" display the same list that "Recently Updated"?

I understand that Relevance means the most relevant to the search made. In that case, without any keyword to search, the result should be the most closed to a theme (the only key used in the search), not the last updated. I understand that the closer results to a theme would be the list of themes ordered by the number of downloads (the most common key), installations and favourites.

So probably a weighted formula involving that values: downloads, installs and favourites would offer a more relevant result than a simple last updated list that is located in the same menu.



 
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John Provasnik at Moodle Moot US
Re: Try out the new Moodle plugins directory interface
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This is amazing! I'm so glad for the images prominently displayed -- makes for less clicks to find what I am looking for. heart

 
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