December 15, 2006

Creating a town from a village: scotedublogs

After not having any computer access since Sunday I've only just cottoned on to the discussion around creating some kind of service for Scotedublogs, bringing together all the posts on the wiki on which people can promote the existence of their school blog, podcast or wiki. It's a great idea and one that has been developing at very much the embryonic stage on the eighth floor of LTS for the past two months.

We've also been building our own 'testbed' service out in East Lothian which will be launched in January and make it far easier for East Lothian teachers to find those who share an interest, a year group or subject. The way we've done this - once we're sure it works - will be blogged in due course.

Today I met up with Nova Stevenson, the Content Editor working on the new LTS Interact service, Graham Wilson, the Technical Team Leader at LTS and Robin Wylie, the developer extraordinaire with the task of helping to put this project together. We took a look at what has been developed already and what is likely in the relatively near future. If you spot something where you might have a skill or idea to offer, please just bang a comment at the end of the post.

1. Pulling Scottish educational blogs together into one feed. This is the easy bit. We've created an online service which will aggregate all existing and any new scotedublogs into one feed, one river of information. There's nothing in this, of course, which Suprglu can't offer, but it's a start. We will also publish as comprehensive a list as possible of all the blog with:

    • Blog name
    • Author
    • Location
    • Specialism(s)
    • Mini description
    • URL
    • RSS feed
    • Anything else?

This will be made available for anyone who wants to fiddle with it or publish it on their own site.

2. A new blogs service as part of LTS Interact We're thinking about creating a new element to LTS's online services. It'll be created in .asp so that it conforms to LTS's content management system, so that LTS's sites could, in theory, draw on blog information to supplement information published elsewhere on the site (kind of like "latest news on this subject from the blogosphere"). As well as the initial project of the "river of news" we were also thinking about starting off by manually creating 'Channels' or 'Playlists' of blogs which will be of interest to specific interest groups. These channels can be subscribed to, of course, but, as yet, there is no online aggregator programme planned. Users might use LTS's existing advice and create their own Bloglines, Netvibes or Pageflakes account, for example, and copy and paste those channels' feeds into their aggregator of choice.

In East Lothian, we are working with the great guys at Pageflakes to create 'Flakes' for these channels, so it's as easy as clicking the title of the channel (e.g. "Geography blogs"; "MFL Teacher blogs"; "Primary Animation Vlogs") to make it appear on your personal homepage.

3. Submit your blog We also thought it would be useful to create a form through which individuals can submit their own blog or the blogs of others which they have found. This information could be published manually on the list of scotedublogs and the source made available for other uses. At first, this would have to be a manual process until demand creates a need to automate it. At current levels of growth, even in the case of East Lothian's sprouting blogosphere, this process could probably be done within 24 hours by a Content Editor.

In the future: Tagging of information after it has been published on the LTS site and by any LTS user is, as Robin the developer put it, something that we "have not done no work in". Tags help users be presented with information that is more relevant to them than a regular internet search, but again, in East Lothian we are using services such as Quintura to create that more targeted search where tags do not exist. There is a desire to let users play with data and improve it over time this is where Glow could kick in.

John, Robert and Peter who have started off suggestions on the scotedublogs wiki itself. There will be other interested parties, too, and between us, we could create something really powerful and useful as the Scottish edublogosphere continues to expand. Nova's blogging more on this project over on her blog, and Robin, the developer, will be guest blogging on the work he has and will be doing on this particular project over there, too. will hopefully kick in.

For example, Glow will know from the user's personal profile what information they are most likely to enjoy being told about. Using the feeds and metadata gathered through scotedublogs LTS will be able to push through relevant blogs, maybe even at a future date, relevant individual blog posts. Glow will also allow people to share their own remixes of RSS feeds, their own 'channels', at a local, regional or national level and thus feed back into the system. One thing is clear - we'd love to come out and meet those with an interest in getting this right. Online is OK but F2F might make this a whole lot easier.

Comments

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Hi Ewan,
I am not sure if I should be please we might get something useful without any work or disappointed that I not not be able to watch and learn from Robert and Pete in action.
If you spot something where you might have a skill or idea to offer, please just bang a comment at the end of the post. Most of my ideas are on the wiki.
Mainly I'd like to be able to set up time sorted aggregations like this with more speed and flexibility. tagging imo is essential.
Glow will know from the user's personal profile what information they are most likely to enjoy being told about EEK!, I am pretty sure I don't know what I'll enjoy being told about, I'd be surprised/delighed someone else will;-)
Glow will also allow people to share their own remixes of RSS feeds, their own 'channels' this sound so much better than the little I managed to see of the pilot, not just the share bit, but the ability to create the channels in the first place, I could not get a feed into glow at all. Sounds like glow may be less of a closed community that it originally appeared( to me) which is very positive.

I agree that user-generated tagging is really useful and, with Vista, will be something more mainstream. I'd love to see it but LTS have limited workflow which is why I'd like to get the LTS guys and you together to try to make something that is worthwhile for everyone within a useful timescale, too.

The guys have been looking on in the wiki and will be adding to it, too. Time aggregated streams are so easy to do but the risk of info overload is huge - providing a global feed of ALL scotedublogs is pretty useless to most people who dip in at the middle of conversations.

Then comes the issue of deciding who's in the feed - it could end up discriminatory at best and an echo chamber at worst.

In relation to Glow, the idea is that you can of course choose what you want to see but the system can also suggest things based on your profile. Nothing more and nothing less than that. I'll still be using my human filters to see what I think is relevant. Bear in mind, though, that most people don't know what they want from the net and use Google. They miss out on most of the stuff said by scotedubloggers because it doesn't register on their horizon. This is a great way to make it appear.

You might not create channels in Glow itself, but Glow is the mechanism to publicise and bring suprglus and so on together and get them through to new audiences. We've got to start realising that it's not Glow vs Us - we must not underestimate our role with LTS in innovating tools which create content Glow can display and share.

More important still is not the delivery mechanism but some good content in the first place.

No need to be disappointed John - I plan to carry on with our project for the time being. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that LTS Interact is being developed. I also think it's great that a grass-roots project is seeking to build on the success of scotedublogs. It's not scotedublogs vs LTS, in just the same way that it's not Glow vs us - let's keep talking and developing, and feel the synergy :)

Robert's right - keep on working things out. Our own developers have the wiki and your blogs on their RSSes now ;-) so they'll be keen to join the conversation.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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