Testing – 29th Nov 2019

Article published on: Nov 29th, 2019

Updated on: Apr 16th, 2020

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

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unsplash-logoDavid Pennington

This testing session was carried out with year 3 Games Design & Art. This test was using nodenogg.in version 0.0.24d (YouTube explainer). The students were presenting a series of potential game ideas to each other, some of them in teams. The format for each was a 12 minute presentation of their 3 game ideas with accompanying slidedeck. The other students used a nodenogg.in instance to comment as the presentation was happening and afterwards for a few brief moments. The one main question I posed to each team to outline that could be answered collectivly via nodenogg.in was what is there biggest struggle issue? For example choosing which game idea to go forward or another aspect that the “crowd” could help on. In reflection from this session I think a more focussed use of nodenogg.in on the question at the end could have worked better as I noticed that contributing live specifically with the spatial view only on show was much harder, the cognative load was high, to listen type and see spatially. This was in part to removing the list view, this again gives rise to the idea of a series of views that work better for different types of sessions for using nodenogg.in. Although some of the connections and such started to be draw as seen in this screenshot, even with the shortcuts, the crowd couldn’t think that fast.

Wip nodenog

Also I felt much more this time as I was involved in thiking and responding during this session as well I think I miss some of the issues students hit with nodenogg.in. In future I need to either be recording the session in a way that is useful for my own reflection or get another staff member to use the tool in a perscibed way with students while I just observe the use. We have a big session set for the end of January which I need to prepare the use case / cases so I can gain the most useful feedback from this as much as possible. This will likely include blocking in some time to get students to write feedback into discourse. May need to use Microsoft Forms as discourse is public and students need to join to complete, which is a barrier for sure

This testing has shown that the spatial view is a slower thinking space, which needs to be coupled with a quicker throw thoughts into a bin exercise.

For this work we first need a bucket collect mode. Then we move into a spatial view where these are first neatly arranged1 and then facilitate a spatial process on the ideas, discarding some, clustering some, connecting some and making new informed and more details inputs into the spatial view.

The spatial view does needs to trim up the text, but there has to still be the ability to glance at the information and arrange as having to keep opening a reader view may be too slow even in the spatial mode.

For now I’ll call these two actions modes, Bucket mode and Consideration mode.

Main take aways

  • Bucket mode to be turned on.
  • Reader view needs some work.
  • Gathering more feedback in sessions is really important.

  1. Some type of initial auto placement. based on entry time perhaps?

No log ins please!

Article published on: Nov 20th, 2019

Updated on: Apr 16th, 2020

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

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unsplash-logoPhoto by Gary Bendig

I was keen to eliminate the need for any type of log in, as storing usernames and passwords would be problematic, this is due in part to one of the privacy design principles for nodenogg.in in that the system must only store data it needs to know and then any said data should be encrypted and decrypted to the owner of that contribution. Also this would require the process of signing up, which would drastically slow down the ability to just point a group of designers/makers to a URL and start working together, this would also rub up against one of the other principles of delightful design, signing up and saving passwords even with 1Password is not really delightful.

nodenogg.in does however need a way to identify contributions and so it uses the value attached to the device name (client id), this is decided by the contributor when they arrive at the initial URL for the first time, this is then used as the name of each document1. When you decide on a device name this creates the new document which is the data structure for contributions. Clustering contributions into documents to a device enables differences in read / write access to said data and enables the contributor to easily remove, export and single out their own contributions. Other data such as positions and connections are stored as separate documents to simplify the way to create and manage shared views.

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Screenshot 2019 11 13 at 22 05 02

I had specifically been looking at the process that was used within micro.blog and I had used to some degree before back in my PHP coding days, that of using a URL with a token appended, this URL is then emailed to you https://example.com/?mytokenstring. This would negate the need to store usernames or passwords but would require a way to email said URLs from the server, which I was not keen on, although Sendy2 could have possibly done this and has many options to not track, however this felt overly complicated for what I required.

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During some of this researching I was reading around using Javascript Object Notation (JSON) Web Tokens (JWT), which led me to web storage. I soon realised that I could use web storage to store the device name within localStorage 3 so that after the initial ‘log in’ vue.js could check on any arrival if this storage was in place and redirect the visitor straight to making contributions on said instance, thus “logging” them in.

When you first visit the URL you are requested to input a “device name” this is then stored on your browsers local storage and enables you to “log in” without the need for a username and password. When you next load the page this token is looked for and if found connects you to the correct document store. Deleting the local storage would require that you enter a device name again, however specifying the same device name would basically connect you to the same document store.

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This approach worked really well in the end. In testing students could all quickly grasp the idea of naming their device and would quickly assume pseudo names. I would like some feedback on changing the wording of “device name” to something the seems to be less technical as this could be a bit of a barrier to the intuitive nature of getting up and running, I think it causes a huh moment, a pause and thus a break in user 4 flow as each time we have tested I have always said “put in a device name it can be anything you want it to be.”

  1. CouchDB’s data structure uses documents instead of tables and is formatted as Javascript Object Notation (JSON) which also easily matches vue.js’s data structure.

  2. Sendy is a self hosted email newsletter application that lets you send emails via Amazon Simple Email Service (SES).

  3. localStorage is a persistent storage kept in browsers until the user chooses to remove it

  4. I really dont like using the term user but just replacing it with human is odd, I might start using designer/maker


Article published on: Nov 13th, 2019

Updated on: Apr 16th, 2020

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

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unsplash-logoPhoto by Thomas Galler

I plan to post more updates to researchnot.es going forward with some more details on the project milestones as we ramp towards the end game, the schedule and thoughts. Although I highly recommend following my micro.blog discursive and specifically the PhD category, you could use NetNewsWire to do this as I document ongoing thoughts and things related to this project in much more casual and regular basis. Here the posts will be milestone documentation. The Official research documents will be on manifold.soton.ac.uk. All feedback welcome at discourse, each post here will have a specific option to pull in comments as well. Also I started using MarsEdit to post to the blog so that should make things much easier.

Year 1 Testing – 4th Nov 2019

Article published on: Nov 4th, 2019

Updated on: Apr 16th, 2020

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

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After using nodenogg.in with the final year students a number of times with a reasonable success. I realised that the session I had planned with our first year students was a week before their very first presentations and that it could be another way to test my hypotheses from the very first test that nodenogg.in could be used to calm the nerves of students as deadlines approach. By making the students anonymously come to the realisation that everyone felt very similar and had the same types of concerns. For this session I also removed the list view from within nodenogg.in and presented just the spatial view on its own, and removed the ability to see device names increasing the level of anonymous interactions.

We posed a question to respond to inside nodenogg.in. What are you worried or concerned about for Friday’s Presentation? As the students started to add comments you could feel the tension lowering in the room as it dawned on them that they all had similar issues, the fact it was anonymous was also again popular. One student also without prompting started to organise and cluster the nodes together spatially as similar thoughts appeared, this may have been prompted by me suggesting this, I am not sure, however interestingly as one student had taken the lead on this task and others didn’t mess around with this student being the designated organiser, although we didn’t know who it was until I was walking around the room looking at students use the platform. I tried to elicit feedback afterwards on discourse but that didn’t work! I will allow time for this feedback to be gathered in the future.

Again I had my mac plugged into the main screen projecting the activity in nodenogg.in, which reminded me of a view mode toggle that would be good as a present mode.

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As staff we then talked through the concerns on screen and this made the session really useful for collective reflection and pause with an impending deadline.

Main take aways

  • Clearly working to help support end of project concerns, realising your not the only one.
  • I was able to help by talking about the collective concerns.
  • Could you have an option lock down spatial arranging to one person.
  • The concept of big screen viewing mode would help.
  • Reflective use prior to deadline.
  • Allocate time for discourse feedback (make students do it).

1 Theme Testing – 1st Nov 2019

Article published on: Nov 1st, 2019

Updated on: Apr 16th, 2020

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

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unsplash-logoRene Böhmer

This test was where I introduced the spatial mode and the list mode together for the first time. Students also started to use the different types of nodes including the link node and attachment node. However viewing the attachments and linking out was not possible.

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Students started automatically moving around the objects in the spatial view, which was good to see, this seemed to be more on ability to view them rather then to order them to start, I also think the number of students contributing dropped. I think the main reasons that links and attachments where added this time versus the last was there was a view of the types now, in the spatial view but also I specifically asked for students to think of links and attachments and pointed out how to edit the Create type and that they could use Add to add(upload) files and images from there own devices.

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Screenshot 2019 12 19 at 15 53 06

Main take aways

  • Need quicker way to detect and add links
  • Attachments could do with drag and drop
  • If link pasted in is to image it should somehow upload as an attachment

Connections Test – 23rd Oct 2019

Article published on: Oct 23rd, 2019

Updated on: Apr 16th, 2020

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

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unsplash-logoPhoto by Clint Adair

Even with the simplest additions to nodenogg.in testing with people is crucial, I know this is obvious but with a tool that has multiuser capabilities testing on your own is impossible, which means you cant fall to often into the trap of assuming things will be used in a specific way. After the previous testing I wanted to get the ability to make connections up and running as fast as possible in nodenogg.in. So I focused on adding this ability. I then added a number of buttons and keyboard shortcuts to also speed up the process of moving in-between interactions, create, finish, connect and zooming. I took the updated version to a team of 4 to see how create nodes and create connections I could see that they did some unexpected things. Firstly I had mapped the controls to CTRL but these conflicted with the browsers default, I had been using macOS, 3 of them had Windows. So I quickly changed that to Shift, which of course introduced an issue with Capital letters triggering the shortcut by mistake, also CMD is not considered a modifier key so I couldn’t have macOS style shortcuts. I am not sure on the best way to solve this yet.

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Once I had the shortcuts working what I was not expecting was when a person went into connection mode they might then start dragging nodes around again, I was expecting them to be just interested in connecting nodes. This was easily fixed by turning off connection mode if someone started dragging icons.

Main take aways

  • Popping into the studio to quickly test a small function is very useful
  • Providing specific tasks can help direct testing
  • Need to do more ad-hoc testing

3 Themes Present – 18th Oct Testing

Article published on: Oct 20th, 2019

Updated on: Apr 16th, 2020

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

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unsplash-logoPhoto by Nathan Dumlao

The next test of nodenogg.in was with the returning Year 3 Games Design & Art students we had a slighly updated version of nodenogg.in however I disabled the spatial view as this had connection and arrangement issues and so I just displayed the shared text list view. In this first test of the new academic year I replaced my previous use of an etherpad with nodenogg.in which is also why I was happy with testing just the list text view.

Students where presenting three themes they had been researching in a 8minute presentation while all the other students where encouraged to connect to nodenogg.in and respond live with text commentary to the presentation. Students had to select one theme to take forward and deep dive into. So other students were also encouraged to vote.

Students appreciated this approach as they tried to help each other with ideas to follow up the theme and which theme to select. We could have just as easily used etherpad or word online, but these don’t offer the simple anonymous approach and wouldn’t test nodenogg.in to see what works and what was still causing usability issues. In this version after each presentation I had to copy and paste the responses into a text document as the system only had the capability to connect to a hardcoded instance.

Main take aways

  • unlike etherpad students couldn’t all write together as list view showed each student as a block
  • students didn’t like to create more that one thing they just typed
  • no styling or use of line breaks which was not good
  • there was not easy was to vote against current text again due list view being blocks
  • spatial view and connections may resolve the above

Keeping a record

Article published on: Sep 3rd, 2019

Updated on: Apr 16th, 2020

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

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unsplash-logoPhoto by Travis Yewell

After reviewing some of my explanation videos I realised that I needed to keep a more accurate record of what where the updates to nodenogg.in and when they actually occurred. This would help mr to use the clips as reference material to any testing that takes place, so I can see which version was used within testing but also it would enable me ton look back at the project and review and record why changes had been made. My previous Youtube Video’s had been a little haphazard in this regard and I needed a more logical system.

I was listening to Accidental tech podcast and they mentioned the semantic versioning system to better describe updates, so I applied this to my versioning system. I also found some of the built in features within Open Broadcast Studio to stamp on screen the date and time. I am still using the same process to stream the recording live to Twitch and afterwards download the video to be upload to my YouTube channel, there is a seven day window to download from Twitch, which I do need to be aware of. Brent Simmons developer of NetNewsWire whose contribution notes I have taken great inspiration from also mentioned adding a letter to the build to signify its state of play as well, so all versions currently end with the letter d for development. For now the alpha build however is also a mirror of the dev build.

These small changes I hope will help provide a usable level of the documentation of the thoughts and ideas from each version and I expect the explainer videos to get shorter as I just cover updates and why those choices have been made.


  • development is at https://dev.nodenogg.in
  • alpha is at https://alpha.nodenogg.in
  • beta is at https://beta.nodenogg.in
  • release will be at https://nodenogg.in

Main take aways

  • Need to automate build process to each URL asap
  • Need to work on safe guarding data in beta and alpha
  • Being organised is important !
  • Need to be consistent (as much as possible)

Student Testing – 4th June 2019

Article published on: Jun 6th, 2019

Updated on: Apr 16th, 2020

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

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unsplash-logoScience in HD

In June nodenogg.in was first tested within a design studio setting specifically with a group of final year BA (Hons) Games Design & Art students. The basic parts of the system where in place with the realtime sync between Vuex, PouchDB and CouchDB working as I had planned.

The main workflow is to enter an instance, there was a pre-made instance1 for this testing session. To join and contribute to this instance the students had to specify a device name, this can be any name you like, students used this as a chance to create fun names and to some degree instantly make their contributions anonymous.

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In previous work using Etherpad2to do a simular process, I had found students really liked the ability to contribute with pseudo-names, they felt freer to comment and less conscious on being ‘judged’ on their contributions.

So students visited the alpha URL, typed in a “device name” and where asked to basically comment on concerns they had around there the final week. At this stage the only view of the realtime data was a single column text view updating as people typed. Most students didn’t create new notes for each idea they created longer notes and made there own bullet lists or spacing, which was interesting to see, there was no formatting options avalible to them either.

Screenshot from Nodenogg.in testing session

I had my Macbook plugged into the presentation screen as well. Students looked at there device for typing and tended to refer to my screen to see all the data appearing live. This suggests a present view could be really useful.

As students saw people typing up concerns the pace of contributions speed up as everyone become more confident, there was also moments of realisation as students released everyone in the room, teams or not had the same types of concerns and the feedback was this made them feel much more confident heading towards hand in and less “bad” about where they where at with the project. I was able to unpack some of the comments with the group aswell.

Main takeaways

  • Realtime was appreciated
  • Big Screen view mode could be added
  • Anonymous input
  • Supported cohort concerns (made students feel better)

  1. instance is the term used to denote independence, so groups can work on their own instance of data within nodenogg.in

  2. Etherpad is an open source, web-based collaborative real-time editor, allowing authors to simultaneously edit a text document, and see all of the participants’ edits in real-time, with the ability to display each author’s text in their own color.

The mis-application of learning technologies within the context of Design Studio-led education

Article published on: Feb 10th, 2019

Updated on: Jun 29th, 2020

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

This document is also on my Manifold instance here

Research Problem

Despite the widespread application of digital technologies in higher education there is scant evidence to suggest that these have had a significant impact on student learning. (Bainbridge, 2014, p1)

Educational institutions spend a significant proportion of their budget on learning technologies each year. However, the underlying metaphor on which this technology is based continues to be the filing system.

These technologies often have sharing features added as a ‘bolt-on’ to core functionality, rather than being built for project-based learning. They are designed to be separate from, rather than integrated within, learning spaces.

Sharing is probably the most basic characteristic of education: education is sharing knowledge, insights and information with others, upon which new knowledge, skills, ideas and understanding can be built. (Open Education Consortium, https://www.oeconsortium.org/about-oec/)

Some thinkers on learning technologies (Watters, 2014:22) talk of the Learning Management System (‘LMS’) as being a piece of administrative software which “purports to address questions about teaching and learning but often circumscribes pedagogical possibilities”. As Downes (2007) notes, the LMS can over-structure the learning experience, conflicting with research and evidence about how students learn.

Design education is, in particular, a very visual field with a requirement for spatial manipulation. Current learning technologies on offer do not augment the physical studio experience, and push educators and students towards commercial, more generic offerings without a pedagogical underpinning.

Students are used to a more ‘delightful’ experience with this kind of software, as evidenced by the quotations below:

Slack is useful for quick & easy non-distractive communication. It is simple to navigate and provides a direct platform in which to contact peers and lecturers, creating channels and direct messaging groups is ideal for a more tactile approach to a discussion. (link)

Onenote is great as everyone can have their own section to put their own information/images on it when working together.

Etherpad definitely proved helpful as everyone put down questions, films, books and other information that has now given me more starting points to research.

Research Proposition

Project-based learning involves collaboration in physical spaces that often cannot be replicated in digital spaces. Through the creation of a spatial interface, engagement with materials and other learners becomes more dynamic and fluid.

There is a dichotomy between tools that are personally owned and single-user by default, and Learning Management Systems provided by educational institutions. The latter offer top-down static file repository functionality and fixed courses, rather than features that support project-based learning.

As a result, this research will begin by examining the fundamental concepts of spatial design, including mind-mapping and concept mapping. It will consider the influence of the design paradigms provided by Xerox’s PARC institute and investigate the legacy of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) pioneers such as JCR Linklider, Ivan Sutherland, Ted Nelson, Douglas Englebert, Seymour Papert and Alan Kay.

Some information must be presented simultaneously to all the men, preferably on a common grid, to coordinate their actions.” (Licklider, 1960, p9)

Figure 1: Example Sketch of a spatial interface for learning objects

A spatial interface allows users to take advantage of their visual memory and pattern recognition.” (Shippman F M, Marshall C, 1999)

A number of education theories have been looked at and Connectivism (Siemens, 2004) will be specifically used in consideration around the tool itself

Research Question

Can the spatial elements of a Design Studio be replicated in a digital learning environment to enhance deep engagement and collaboration?


The project will create an interface which will be tested with a group of students over a five week project that will run twice in 2020 and 2021. The tool and the project will be evaluated by measuring the staff and student experience through observation, surveys and outputs.

The entire project process will be captured as it progresses in an open and free software approach and documented at the locations below. The systematic packaging of this process and the application of Design thinking and human centered design will also reveal tool building processes and culminate in a manifesto to design these types of new design led digital tools for enhancing project-based design education.

Current output locations


  • Feb – April – BuildingMVP
  • April – May – TESTING with Year 2/3
  • May – June – ITERATE
  • June – Sept – REFINE
  • Sept – Oct – Testing with Year 2/3
  • Oct – Nov – ITERATE
  • Nov – Dec – REFINE


  • Jan – Feb – REFINE
  • Feb 2020 – Use with specific board project year 1 Games Design Students
  • Feb – March – EVALUATE Testing
  • March – June – ITERATE
  • June – Sept – REFINE
  • Sept – Oct – Testing with Year 2/3
  • Oct – Nov – ITERATE
  • Nov – Dec – REFINE


  • Jan – Feb – Use again with board project year 1 Games Design Students
  • March – July – WRITEUP
  • August – Oct – HAND IN


Bainbridge, A. (2014), Digital technology, human world making and the avoidance of learning. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education: Special Edition: Digital Technologies, p1.

Licklider, J.C.R. (1960). Man-Computer Symbiosis. IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics HFE-1, pp.4–11.

Open Education Consortium, About Page, [Online], Available at: https://www.oeconsortium.org/about-oec/ , [Accessed December 15, 2018].

Shippman F M, Marshall C. (1999), Spatial Hypertext: An Alternative to Navigational and Semantic Links , [Online], Available at: https://cs.brown.edu/memex/ACM_HypertextTestbed/papers/37.html , [Accessed December 15, 2018].