Weeknotes 5 Nov 2017

Some weeks are more boring to reflect on than others. This week was largely tying up loose ends from the progress made last week.

I wrote a blog post about kicking off the project on putting educational and occupational credentials into and I set up the W3C EOCred CG. There were some glitches in the W3C set up at first, but now it seems all in order, and has 15 members. Yay! If you would like to contribute to the work of the group (or even just lurk and follow what we do) please join it.  I also had a useful catch call with the people at the Credential Engine and SIUC who are paying for this work.

Most of the rest of the week was spent on a theme for the PressBooks version of Omniana. I have set up custom taxonomies that will allow me to index  the people, places, events and works mentioned in the articles. I quickly found out that sub themes for PressBooks are not straightforward. When did CSS get so complicated? Anyway, I have the custom taxonomies working now, and I am well on the way to finding them a place to display them. The long term aim is to explore linking the content to wikisource and the indexes to wikidata; using the indexes to build a graph of what is mentioned in the book.

I went to a presentation from Companies House on the duties of being a director.  I made a minimal website for PJJK Limited, in case people go looking for it.

[The cover image is based on Okkulte Erlebnisse 1924.jpg By H.-P.Haack (eigenes Foto, Antiquariat Dr. Haack Leipzig.) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, adapted by the publisher and licensed CC:BY]


Weeknotes 28 Oct 2017

image from pixabay, CC:0

Several things I have been doing over the last months came to significant thresholds this week.

Firstly, for the project to describe educational and occupational credentials with, we went beyond internal discussions among people involved with the Credential Engine and sounded out the wider community on the idea with a post to their github repository and message to their mail list. I was really happy with how positively both were received.

Secondly, we finally got the paperwork in place to make me a full partner of Cetis LLP.  That didn’t involve me doing much this week, it was the fruition of work from a month or so back. I’ll be working on a couple of Cetis projects: trunkDB a web-based relational database for live research data in open science/digital humanities research, which is in private beta; and  a new project on library-related data orchestration.

I got all my educational technology publications posted to this blog.  I’ve done this with a plugin and theme parts that build on ideas I’ve been working at on and off for several years, starting with putting Cetis publications on WordPress, then looking at WordPress as a semantic web platform  to build descriptions. I see it all as building towards enhancing the use of WordPress as a lightweight repository. There’s a tweak which will clarify the difference between presentations / conference papers that’s waiting to be deployed, but I’m quite happy with how it’s worked.

Omniana in PressBooks also went onto a live site, but there is still not much content in it.

On Friday I went out to meet old friends / former colleagues & student at Heriot-Watt. I really like some of the things that Lisa and Santi have been doing. There’s a nice collection of open educational resources for computer science building off the back of delivering online material for the Graduate Level Apprenticeship in IT Software Development. There is also a good start on making a sort of app store for student developed resources from the first year Interactive Systems course. The students need a little more guidance on what they post by way of descriptions, but I think this is a great way finalise the conception–design-implement-market product cycle, plus it provides a platform for peer and instructor feedback. Both are using WordPress.

Also on Friday I learnt that Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt are advertising for someone to identify OERs that can be used in their online courses, and to devise a strategy for publishing some EBS content openly. They should get involved in OpenScotland.

Weeknotes 21 Oct 2017

A couple of related items progressed this week. The work with the credential engine is nearing the end of the set up phase. I think we have discussed things like nomenclature, definitions and scope enough, so that we’ve explored what it is that we want to do and how it relates to similar work, and how we can explain that to other people. The next step is to start talking outside the credential registry group.  We have been discussing related work in the DCMI LRMI task group on describing competencies using The proposal for DefinedTerms does about 80% of what we think we need, so we’re super keen for that to make some progress.

Fixed a bug which meant that these weeknotes weren’t displaying on Android mobile browsers. They worked fine on desktop view, but in normal mode all you would see would be the home page of the blog. The problem was with JetPack’s mobile theme not liking custom post types, so bye-bye mobile theme. I’ve got to say that I spent a lot of time on Tuesday trying to get to the bottom of this, and it was suggestions from the WordPress Edinburgh meetup that I went to on Wednesday evening that got me there in the end.

Looked further in to Jupyter Notebooks. You can see where I got to as it’s on git hub, It’s not designed as a learning resource, for that I would put in a lot more interactivity–prompting the reader to explore by changing parameters–, add some more visualizations, and depending on audience maybe hide some of the python. What worked well was finding an existing notebook on github which had something similar to what I wanted and basing my work off that. I changed too much for it to be anything like a fork of the original, but I can definitely see potential for sharing the effort in creating these notebooks via OSS fork, branch and adapt approaches. Applied for a job at Edinburgh University which focusses on using jupyter notebooks in teaching and learning.

Did a little more transcription of Omniana on wikisource, liking that; the PressBooks version is still on my private server, but here’s a preview:

Cetis LLP have a database product that we are beta testing in private; one of things I am testing with is the WordPress database from the blog of Omniana. I’ll trying SQL queries on the tags and posts, see if it yields anything of interest. But my ideas for the wikisource / pressbooks version are more along the lines of embedding RDFa into the tagging and getting a graph to explore.

New Ubuntu installed, and new release by Causa Sui on order 🙂

Weeknotes 15 Oct 2017

Two weeks worth this post, but not really because mostly I have been coughing and sneezing.

Apart from that there was a lot about books. A while back I saw a note that the PressBooks roadmap included “Ensure support for H5P interactive elements with graceful fallbacks across all formats”. That looks like something worth waiting for. I have been meaning to look at PressBooks for while, so this seemed like a good prompt, but to try PressBooks you need a book to write. Hmmm

Ages ago I started transcribing a book by Southey and Coleridge called Omniana. It’s a collection of random observations from their reading.  It’s interesting in its own right and also quite fun when you start linking to scanned copies of the books that get cited in it. That stalled a few years ago, but whenever I see someone present on wikisource, I think about picking it up again. So, I have made a start on putting Omniana into wikisource and also have PressBooks set up to display the results–that’s on localhost at the moment, I’ll make it public once I’ve got a bit more content in it. It has me thinking about using APIs to take content from wikisource to PressBooks, indexing the content of the articles with WordPress custom taxonomies linked to wikidata, to see what can be built by way of an RDF graph representation of Omniana.

If that wasn’t enough about books, I saw a job advert for a role focusing on Jupyter Notebooks in education, so I also had an experiment with creating some of them. I can see them working for labs, tutorials and project work, if there is enough coordination so that students get far enough up the learning curve to be productive, not just follow step-by-step instructions for each notebook. Otherwise, they might be useful in the way that MathCad electronic books were in the mid-90s, setting out mathematical theory and showing the results in a way that students could interact with by varying input parameters.

Weeknotes 30 Sept 2017

A bitty sort of week, started well but kind of petered out.

I finished and submitted my CMALT portfolio. Now wait while it is assessed.

The project kicked off last week, and this week we were discussing scoping, naming and definition issues. I think we are nearing a reasonable definition:

Educational and Occupational Credentials: diplomas, academic degrees, certifications, qualifications, badges, that a person can obtain through learning, education and/or training. Typically awarded on successful completion of an assessment of relevant capabilities.

Naming still seems a bit sticky. I would like a name that somewhat reflects what is in scope (i.e. not general identification and authorisation credentials) but there are several communities involved in the credential engine work, and a tension between ‘education’ and industry/occupation/professional views of credentials. Educational credentials seem to be perceived as being about knowledge  rather than qualification to do something.

I have also pulled together some use cases for what sort of use cases might be relevant to descriptions of credentials in

I also spent time talking to colleagues in Cetis about user testing and marketing for TrunkDB, and did a bit of work to see how the Cetis website might be updated.

I spent quite a lot of time putting my publications here (and still have more to do). The aim is to have a personal archive and not copies of my work scattered all over the place. This used the pubwp WordPress plugin I finished the first version of a couple of weeks ago. That plugin seems to work OK, though I have a couple of enhancements I would like to make around the publication types currently covered.

Weeknotes 24 Sept 2017

Made good progress on my CMALT portfolio, it’s now pretty much ready for submission, just needs one or two more screenshots for evidence, if I can get them, and collating. Mostly this week I was proofreading and correcting.

On Monday I listened in to the 2nd UNECSO World OER Congress. Picked up a few interesting snippets about search, metadata and course design.

I also made a start on the project which aims to add what’s necessary to to allow it to describe the type of educational credentials that CTDL does. Mostly this week we’ve set up some discussion channels among those working on CTDL to work out some details like scope and what we’re going to call these credentials so that the wider security and id type of credential is out of scope. “Qualification” seemed the ideal term, until I found out that in the US it doesn’t seem to be used the same way as in the UK.

Had our monthly LRMI call, discussing work we are planning relating to describing competencies with

Went to the monthly Edinburgh WordPress meetup, heard about GDPR. I am finding it useful to have at least one face-to-face work related meeting each week.

Made some tweaks and fixed a few bugs in my pubwp plugin, which I am starting to use to host my publications on WordPress.

Talked with colleagues in Cetis about plans for TrunkDB, ‘database as a service’. Planning to take a look at it in more detail next week.

I used a pomodoro timer app while working on my CMALT and doing the pubwp development. Experimenting with tying it into a todo list in a way that allows me to see how much time I spend on each task & relating tasks to projects.

Weeknotes 16 Sept 2017

Monday, I went to The Promise of Open Education, the  the final event of the Open Educational Practices in Scotland project. It was a good chance to catch up with Lorna, Joe, Natalie and many other people from the Scottish open education scene. I’ve written my reflections on the event as The end of Open Educational Practices in Scotland (spoiler: it’s not).

Also under the heading of Open Education I have joined the Creative Commons Open Education Platform. I look forward to seeing how that develops, maybe learn more next week by listening in to the 2nd World OER Congress in Ljubljana.

Got Ontotext GraphDB up and running, with among other things RDF descriptions of OU Courses converted from their XCRI feed using the xcri to schema course translator I wrote a couple of weeks ago. I can now run queries like this to find all the History courses and when they start:

PREFIX schema: <>
select distinct ?url ?title ?start ?subject where { 
    ?course a schema:Course .
    ?course schema:url ?url .
    ?course schema:name ?title .
    ?course schema:educationalAlignment ?alObject .
    ?alObject schema:alignmentType ?alType 
    Filter regex(?alType, "EducationalSubject")
    ?alObject schema:educationalFramework ?framework .
    Filter regex(?framework, "JACS3")
    ?alObject schema:targetName ?subject . 
    FILTER regex(?subject, "^V100", "i")
    ?course schema:hasCourseInstance ?instance .
    ?instance schema:startDate ?start


Finished all sections of CMALT portfolio. Now need to check them through and edit as necessary.

Signed and returned contract for work on Credential Engine‘s CTDL.

Upgraded my Android tablet to Marshmallow. It’s a bq Aqaris M10 which started off running Ubuntu. I switched to Android a while back but it doesn’t get the OTA updates. Anyway, the upgrade went fine, following instructions here. However, installing the email app on it I got the password wrong, and then noticed that I had lost all access to IMAP / SMTP from my home network, not others. In trying to find out whether I could change the IP address my home network was using, I managed to lose all internet connectivity. I was left wondering how upgrading Android can lead to being chucked off the internet. Anyway, setting my home router back to factor defaults got me back on the internet, and raising a ticket with Reclaim Hosting got my IP address off the email server’s blacklist and on to the whitelist inside half an hour. They do great tech support there.

Weeknotes: 9 Sept 2017

Now have most of my CMALT written, because I would like to be certified as a learning technologist. I need to go through it to check that I have covered the right things in enough depth. You can see (and please comment on) my portfolio as Google docs. I think I have learnt more by writing this than through any other thing I’ve done in the last five years. 

WordPress publications repository: made the last few tweaks to a plugin + theme I have been working on that allows uses custom post types and metaboxes to make wordpress into a repository. Builds on WordPress as a repository for Cetis publications, custom metadata in WordPress and WordPress as a semantic web platform. You can see how it is coming along here (still some niggles to sort out, especially with the footer) or see it on github. Really needs a post to itself.

Contract came through for some work relating to the Credential Engine‘s CTDL (credential transparency description language, education credentials that is, i.e. degrees, certificates, diplomas, badges etc.). More about that soon, but it is my first contract as an independent, so very happy about that.

Tooling up: Getting software & applications set up at home. Recently: Amazon Glacier, protege, slack, eclipse, yEd. (Previously focused on home network, local development webserver, PHP, mySQL, WordPress, etc.) So far yEd is my favourite.

Went to visit friends at Heriot-Watt. Enjoyed catching up with what they (especially Lisa) have been doing by way of online learning to support the graduate level apprenticeship. You can see the beginnings of an OER collection (but that courses themselves are hidden in Blackboard).

Mostly eating beans and beetroot from the allotment. Didn’t do enough cycling.

Weeknotes opener: August 2017

All through August I was thinking about getting started with weeknotes proper, but some weeks I didn’t seem to have done much, others I had done plenty but didn’t have time to put it into context. Anyway, if I don’t start somewhere I won’t start. So here, by way of an opening, is a summary for August.

I have been working on my CMALT application. Finding it very useful to reflect on what I have done over the last four years (and previous to that as background). Managing about half a section per session, and one session working on it every other day. Have about four more bit to do, then some revision.

I have doing some python programming. Wrote  a tool for converting XCRI XML feeds of course advertising data into linked data (JSON-LD initially). Also a tool for populating the music on my phone my music library based on a playlist (Brasero has similar facility but this has stopped working for me). Got more familiar with python virtual environments, xml.etree, rdflib,  and argparse.  Found and liked python adventures as a way of logging & sharing solutions to specific problems in programming; thinking of trying something similar.

Made good progress with setting up some work with the Credential Engine around describing credentials in Also made progress on working more closely with Cetis colleagues in the future. Sadly one other proposal didn’t come off. I think the company set-up is done now I have insurance, bank account etc.

Went to Repository Fringe and Tweeted a fair amount. Got some useful insight into research data management which I ought to write down before I forget it.

Used the wikidata sessions at repofringe to explore wikidata, sparql and histropedia timelines. With help from Nav and Ewan managed Histropedia timeline for  Medieval female writers.

Didn’t cycle enough, but did a couple of decent length rides through midlothian and borders.

Weeknotes: pilot 2

Achievement unlocked: PJJK Limited now has a Bank account. I have also spent time on US tax forms and getting insurance. A lot of form filling, but it is more bearable when directly connected to work I want to do than when it’s just a procedural requirement.

Submitted a scheme of work for potential client (let’s call it project number 1). I’m quite happy with the plan I proposed, and it would be a great project to kick off with.

Updated ICBL website with my last couple of publications and to move information about me and my projects into the ‘past’ section. Finished writing up our experiences with BTL Surpass for online assessment in Computer Science. Went to a leaving do for me and a colleague who is also leaving this week. Good byes and well wishing all round.

I’ve been using the Clockwork Tomato app. I’ve used the pomodoro technique before, e.g. when marking exams. I thought that since I’ll be working from home it might be useful to get into the routine of using it more often. I don’t know if working in 25 min phases is allowing me to be more focused and productive, but I do know that the app is a complete tyrant and that does help in stopping the breaks from extending too long. I mean, I definitely have to focus to get a coffee made in a five minute break.

Did a little WordPress development to create custom post type for these weeknotes. I have a family holiday coming up, after that I’ll decide whether to keep going with these.