Note: It's amusing to look back at the note I wrote at the end of October.  2020 crazy?  It was just getting warmed up.

2020 is one of those years which makes me wish I kept a journal. So. Many. Things. I've already forgotten most of them.

If I had numbers backing up that real life experience in 2020 they might look something like: 

  • Left the house only 7% as frequently
  • Spent 62 hours wearing a cloth mask
  • Ate 282% more chips

Well, I’m glad those don’t exist.  Mostly because I think that chip intake estimate is probably seriously low. 

Fortunately, for the sake of this retrospective, we have some cheerier numbers to look at for Unrulr. Numbers which help tell some of our story.

2020 Community Numbers

New Communities
New Groups
Users who posted at least once
Users who posted for the first time

Fred and I are still infants in the education world.  Working with the learners and educators in the Unrulr community is exciting -- we learn so much every day.  And we were fortunate enough to connect with even more new friends this past year.

Breaking down the community activity, in 2020 we saw:


In the spring and summer, we spent a good chunk of time building out our teacher/admin web dashboard.  We hoped to make it easy for teachers to:

  1. Manage their class rosters
  2. Create or update the cogs for their groups

And we saw educators create a whole bunch of cogs (h/t @Marc Allard at Menlo for coming up with this term) this past fall.

Cogs designed
Cogs used to self-assess
Teacher assessments
Peer assessments

While we've heard from many users how useful it is for learners to self-assess (by picking out the cogs appropriate for their post), we still haven't quite figured out the mechanism/process for teacher and peer assessments.  It's there, but it largely goes unused relative to the number of self-assessments. But we're thinking on it. If you have ideas please reach out!

Of all those cogs chosen by learners, about 92% were in private sets, designed by the users that tagged them.  But about 4400 were tagged with cogs from our public library, which includes sets like Design Thinking, Hā, Shelter in Place, Wellness, and Habits of Mind.  We placed each of those sets into one of three buckets:

  • Hard skills (tangible, testable)
  • Soft skills (involving emotional intelligence)
  • Goals (outcome or category based).

Broken down by specific cog set it looks like:

So what can we learn from these?  Well, it's difficult to draw too many high-level conclusions.  More soft skills than hard skills have been tagged, but that could be either because we don't have a lot of hard skills in our library, or the ones we do aren't super popular.  And maybe most of our communities would just prefer to roll their own cogs rather than use our library goals (there are currently 168 unique sets of goals in the Unrulr ecosystem).  

But it sure seems like our Unrulr community is very interested in soft skills. Wellness, HĀ, and Habits of Mind are our three most popular sets, with the ubiquitous Design Thinking and the timely Shelter-in-place sets rounding out the top 5.

Overall, we're super happy that the community continued to grow in 2020, despite the challenges posed by COVID. We learned a lot about how our friends are using Unrulr, and a lot of ways in which we can continue to improve.

Product Features and Improvements

Jan 2020
Jan 2021
Many more

2020 was busy. We added a whole bunch of new features, and also tried to make some old ones better. Some of the highlights include:

  • The new teacher dashboard and admin interface
  • Journeys
  • Published posts
  • Auditable post history
  • Google Classroom Sync

From a numbers standpoint, there are lots of ways to try to measure how much has changed in a product.  One simplistic way is by looking at how much the code behind the product changed.  At Unrulr, we split our code into four main repositories:

  • Backend (language: Elixir)
    Handles all the storing/retrieval of data.
  • Mobile/Web App (language: Dart, framework: Flutter)
    What you see on Android, iOS, and (as of March 2020) the web(!).
  • Teacher/Admin Dashboard (language: Javascript, framework: Vue)
    Manages rosters, cogs and data at the group level.
  • Backend-Mobile API (language: Dart)
    Handles communication between the Mobile/Web App and the Backend.

And here's how the numbers total up for 2020:

Code Commits
Lines of code

Which averages out to:

Lines of code/day

Is that a lot?  A little?  I dunno. It's what got done! But I thought it might be fun to look at the numbers on a monthly basis.  You can see where our focus was at different times of the year.

What happened in March?  Well, COVID for one.  And for two, I snuck in a quick 10-day vacay at the beginning of the month.  In hindsight, that was pretty excellent timing -- one of the last, safe times to travel.

Other things you can see:

  • The early Spring push to get the new teacher dashboard working with basic roster management.
  • And then the time we spent in the summer getting the cogs (skills/goals) creation and editing working in the dashboard
  • Focusing on one thing naturally leads to a drop in work on others.  This is probably true in most engineering organizations.  But the effect is magnified by the size of our development team (1!).

Unrulr Team

Jan 2020
Jan 2021

Mark was our original CTO and played a key role in setting up our tech stack, along with helping out with the myriad of responsibilities that go along with getting a startup off the ground.  With much sadness, we bid him farewell and wished him luck on his next adventure in early February. We've missed him very much over the past year, and still keep in touch with the occasional zoom + beer.

Looking Forward

2020 was a wee bit wild. But we're optimistic for 2021. We hope that educators and schools will be able to spend less energy dealing with external challenges and more energy on the fun parts of learning.  We hope that Unrulr will continue to learn and grow alongside our community.   Most of all, we hope that, as people, we continue to find common ground and work towards a better future.

Mahalo, 2020, for all the lessons ;)

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