OU blog

Personal Blogs

New blog post

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Sam Marshall, Friday, 21 Aug 2009, 17:44

So ma-ny bugs! So little time...

We just hit the deadline for bugfixes to our next release in the start of September. Nothing else gets fixed for the release after today; if anything important is found, we'll fix it with 'catch-up' patches to the system.

The good news is that I actually fixed all the ForumNG bugs (28 this week). Bad news is that I don't really feel like we had enough testing - they also only started testing it this week. Email features haven't been tested because we had technical problems setting it up on the test system. Overall, though, I still think it probably works.

Here are some things that were found during testing despite that I also thought it 'probably worked' when we sent it for testing in the first place:

  • Students couldn't post or reply or view discussions. (Ooops.) Nor could tutors. (Ooops again.) It worked for admins though! Well, admins using Firefox, because...
  • The interactive features all broke for Internet Explorer users. (Hey, it's only 80%.)
  • The interactive features all broke rather more seriously in Internet Explorer 6 specifically.
    I decided there wasn't time to fix it and got permission to leave out all the JavaScript for that browser, at least for now. Might have to put it back in later if people complain. For now, we are proudly running an 'IE6 sucks, get a real browser' message in the footer of affected pages. (Note: The wording might be slightly different...)
  • The edit timeout implementation was a complete mess, with no checking at all, and utterly incomprehensible to students. Testers complained.
    This turned out to be kind of a plus in the end, because now there is a really nice edit timeout implementation; when you edit a post it tells you what the deadline is, if the deadline's getting near the message goes bold, and when it runs out then the Save button is greyed.
    In addition, while you're just looking at a discussion, the 'Edit' and 'Delete' links automatically vanish when time's up.
  • Pretty much every Cancel button anywhere across the entire forum broke in a different way. (Who ever tests Cancel buttons?)

So, that's the good news. (Maybe?)

I guess the less good news is that I'm not quite sure when there will be a public release for other Moodle users (to 'contrib') of this code, even after we think it's working! Hopefully we can do this alongside our next December release. There is a bit of work involved though because this code depends on TinyMCE and standard Moodle 1.9 uses HTMLArea. With luck they have similar interactive facilities, but...

By the way, if you're an Open University student/tutor/other staff member and are wondering when you get to use the new forum, the answer is probably not 'September 1st' even if we are theoretically releasing it then. smile A very few pilot courses will be using it in September, along with the staff LTS-EDIT forums, and I think the VLE examples one that tutors can see. Most people are still trundling along on the existing forum for some time to come.

Share post


I'm new, so I'm not sure...

Hi Sam.

I'm new to the OU and the myriad of computer systems there appear to be.

FirstClass conferences, Moodle and other web pages that seem to float around smile

From what I've managed to glean from trawling around the various sites, I think you are in a state of change? You are closing down FirstClass (eventually), and moving over to Moodle? Am I correct?

Is there somewhere we can read the strategy? Maybe a timetable for change over, which systems will provide what?

I'm a professional techie, but I'm changing gear and studying for a BA at the OU smile I hate it when bugs creep in at the last moment, so I feel for you *smile* I think web development is a pain in particular - so many browsers to cope with, so many slight environment differences.

I hope it is all going well and you're happy with the release on the 1st September.

Good luck!

New comment

Hi! Sorry for slow response, I have not yet figured out how to add an Atom/RSS feed into anything I actually read at work...

The answer is...

1. Just for background, I am in the department that works on software for courses and teaching/learning. This is separate from the administrative stuff (student records etc) although obviously the sites and systems are linked. so I mostly only know about things which are actually used as part of courses.

2. All course web sites are supposed to, eventually, move to using our Moodle-based system (which is this one you're looking at right now). Existing sites using other systems might continue but when the course reaches its end-of-life and is replaced/rewritten, there should be a new Moodle-based site.

(We don't intentionally use the word Moodle where students can see it, nor the word 'VLE' nor anything else that might describe this system. smile I talk about that kind of stuff on this blog because a main part of the audience is other Moodle developers in different institutions etc.)

3. As for forums, these are currently mainly using 'FirstClass' which is a very weird commercial product we've been using for years. But yes you are correct, the plan is to phase this out in favour of a new Moodle-based forum. We had to develop a new one in order to make the interface nicer so that people were willing to consider moving from FC!

4. There isn't a single timetable because it depends on courses. Many courses change over from February 2010 presentation, but certainly not all. Nothing will change in the middle of a presentation though so nobody has to deal with a different forum system in the middle of one course, just maybe when you start the next! As for a strategy, sorry, don't know.

Good luck with your studies smile




New comment

Hi Sam

I have been at the OU for 15 years so have used all versions of forum software and think that FirstClass is really good, it allows me to view all my courses on one stand alone multi-window software. Yes , firstclass is complicated but it allows you a lot of functionality i.e how you want to view your forums and view multiple forums at the same time

This year I am doing a new course S383 and this does not use firstclass but moodle. I was shocked to find out how primitive moodle is . It has absolutely no functionality. I use other open source Forum software and this is by far the worst I have seen. I decided to download the moodle book as this must just be an entry level implementation and functionality can be plugged in. How wrong I was , this is it!!

For example I have spent the day trying to work out how to get a preview of a message (all the forums I have used have a preview button next to the send button ) so that one can check that LATEX code for equations are actually correct and produce the necessary equations. After much experimentation and forum messages the two options we have is send the message and then edit and resend until the Equation appears or save the message as a draft , then open the draft to see if the equation is correct. Why cant we just have a preview button.

To compare firstclass to moodle is for me to compare my Ipod with my CD Walkman.

I think open source software is a wonderful idea just don’t expect me to use it.

Douglas Beveridge

p.s I use Mozzilla Firefox and cannot cut and paste