Ning is Our Wake-Up Call

Ning just recently announced that they will no longer support free sites. I belong to a lot of Ning sites. Ironically, the Open Textbook Advocate Trainers website is a Ning site. That site is (was?) dedicated to open source textbooks. It really makes you rethink exactly what tools you use and why. I have a lot of materials in Google Docs that I think I am going to be backing up at home more often. I used to use Flickr a lot until I one day they emailed me to say that I was over the limit and they down-graded my account so I could not upload anymore or see pictures in full resolution until I sent them some money. This “premiumware” happens when something is free to drum up a customer base and then they “offer” you an “upgrade.” Very effective when the company is holding your files and network hostage. Google does say they have a commitment to education but we will see what the economy dictates here. George Siemens warned about this too.

I use a lot of “free” online tools but I have some redundancy in there in case one fails – for instance, I use Slideshare and Slideboom for my online presentations. I use Google Docs and I use Scribd. I decided this early on in case someone’s server was on the fritz and I was travelling. Now this redundancy is especially important when companies are looking to “monetize their assets.” It is amazing how short-sited business people can be. How do you monetize a network? What do you charge for the learning and connections that happen? All of the great work that people did in these networks is swept away to “capture a big opportunity.” Why not partner with education institutions, UNESCO, and other governments to harness those networks for everyone’s benefit? That would be a far greater opportunity (and maybe even more lucrative) than any current business model could conceive.

In the meantime, we should be pushing more for open source tools, platforms, and public hosting of those open source tools.
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