How can I find who's talking about a web page or site? Try Talk Digger.

We always like to know who's talking about Exc-el. And what they're saying, of course. But we haven't got
Trackback to help here – at least so far – so we'd need to trawl a number of blog search engines to find out. And that's a pain.

Talk Digger ( ) makes this easy. Give it a web page, and it queries a bundle of blog search engines (technorati, googleblog, bloglines, feedster, msnsearch, google, yahoo, digg – you can choose) and returns a
usefully formatted summary .

Here's the example from the home page, showing how you can embed it in web pages.

<a href="" title="See who's talking about Exc-el">Who's talking about <strong>Exc-el?</strong></a>

It's got great potential for quickly getting a variety of perspectives on anything in the news. Here's an example:

<a href="" title="See who's talking about A Curriculum for Excellencel">Who's talking about <strong>A Curriculum for Excellence?</strong></a>

In teaching, it could have value for:

  • quickly finding who's talking about specific student blog posts, but might not have left comments
  • quickly generating a variety of perspectives on a big news story (using, say, specific BBC page URL) or a web site (using site URL).
  • demonstrating the power of blogging to enable an individual's voice to be heard

Here's a final example using the recent
BBC story about Blair's sudden enthusiasm for nuclear power .

<a href="" title="See who's talking about PM 'convinced' on nuclear future">Who's talking about <strong>PM 'convinced' on nuclear future</strong></a>

Is Exc-el part of an emerging hopeful Scotland?

Last year
Demos and the Scottish Book Trust published
Scotland 2020: Hopeful Stories for a Northern Nation . You can download the introductory chapter
here . I was struck by the parallels between their description of a newly emerging hopeful Scotland and the Exc-el approach. See what you think – here are their definitions, from the introductory chapter:

The three Scotlands

There are two Scotlands, the traditionalist and modernist, with which
people are familiar, but a third – hopeful – has begun to emerge. The
characteristics of the three Scotlands are:

This is conservative with a small ‘c’, can
be left, right, centre or not think of itself in these terms
and is opposed to the claims of modernisation.Whether
this is Old Labour fighting to retain a more collectivist
approach, traditional Nationalists seeing Scottish identity
being eroded or the Catholic Church opposing social
reforms, there is a common strand of resisting the
encroachment of the modern world. Some of them
hanker after a supposed past defined by certainty.

This is the ‘official future’ of Scotland. This is
the world of government, public agencies, ‘the system’ and
the idea of change as ‘the machine’. The focus is on
institutional notions of change, policy delivery and levers.
Seeming truths such as ‘the knowledge economy’ and
‘growth as a policy priority’ are discussed in agendasetting,
aspirational documents such as ‘Smart, Successful
Scotland’.While modernist Scotland invokes the mantra
of ‘change’ constantly, it reinforces a deeply conventional
and orthodox view of the world.

This is an emerging and increasingly influential
group, the least homogeneous of the three and containing
people within ‘the system’ as well as artists, thinkers and
imagineers. It argues that ‘the machine’ way has been tried
and found wanting, and that we need to embrace a
different approach based on hope, deep change and

Exc-el editor doesn't work with iBook?

Chris Day found that the (eZpublish)
Online Editor doesn't work with the Safari browser on his iBook. I've since heard from
Karen Robertson that she has successfully used it with the excellent
Firefox browser on an iBook, but this isn't installed as standard in East Lothian. It won't be a problem for student blogs as these won't be on eZpublish. We're now at the stage of planning migration of blogging onto other platforms, so it will cease to be an issue for weblogs. It does mean, though, that anyone wanting to update the Exc-el site via a standard school iBook will only be able to enter plain text (including XML, if they want).

Has Exc-el helped you improve education?

Other education authorities, from Borders to East Renfrewshire, are now taking an interest in Exc-el. We're also seeing interest from organisations such as Learning and Teaching Scotland and HMI, so have decided it's about times we explained what we're up to.

The most important thing people want to know is whether it's helping improve education in East Lothian, so that's the reason for the question. It's clearly early days, so it's important we pay attention to any small signs of improvement so that we can build on what we're doing right. On the other hand, there will be some things we need to improve – I'm quite happy to hear about them too!

Please leave a comment (which can be anonymous), or
email me if you prefer. Thanks.