Monday, April 19, 2010
The ever changing world of free in cloud computing and Ning
One of the things that educators in general love is "free," but free always comes at a cost. For some it is living with Google Ads on your page, for others it is living on the generosity of a company . Last week the rumors about Ning and their change in direction from a primarily free service to premium offerings rocked the tech world - not just the education one. We've seen this before, and the majority of us live in the "fear" of when our free services will leave, either due to abandonment of a project altogether (re: Google Lively) or change to ads or pay for services (re. Wetpaint)
However, I was really surprised that Ning took this direction. They initially really seemed to understand community and how to build one with a mix of free and paid options. When the word came out that Gina was leaving Ning - I should have known something was up.
Now I pay every month to remove ads from my Ning. I feel that when I use this as a teaching tool I needed to be ad free. I was also lucky enough to have the budget for the less than ~$250 a year to keep it running. Comparing this to running something internally - it was actually more cost-efficient for the external model.
I really do like Ning, I like the concept, the way it works, and how easy it has been to use, but it is not Ning that makes a community. I recently finished my thesis research on Ning and found that what makes Ning such a great learning resource is the way it empowers the users of the community, not the just the creators of the community. We talk a good deal at our university about how to define our courses to be platform independent, so that we don't rely on BlackBoard or Moodle or Ning to deliver our content. I think it is important for us to teach our pre-service teachers how to conceptualize the use of tools "in the cloud" so that they would work on several different platforms. So that the losing of one tool isn't as devastating. And there have been some great alternatives posted by Mashable and Buddy Press. The use of created social networks will not go away, it will just grow more diverse.
As for me, I'm keeping my Nings and I'll pay for them, but I doubt I'll present about Ning anymore.