The Summer of my Discontent

“Living is an affair for those who turn on the ovens”

Believe it or not – I’m usually a very positive guy. In life, in the classroom and online. I’m accused often of being too positive and forward looking, being naive and idealistic. I used to take those condemnations and wear them as a badge of honor. Optimism is my Pascal’s gambit – there is no “win” in being negative so all things being equal – I’ll be happy.  NOW, I’M NOT SO SURE IF I’M RIGHT.

edvard-munch-the-scream-c-1893What do I mean? Well let me explain, using just one recent example that has led me to my summer of discontent.

I put heart and soul into “getting teachers the goods”.  Four or five years ago, I saw the future of Web 2.0 and started sharing resources and forming professional community online. Truly, I said to myself, “David, you make good money, you aren’t starving, this is what you are good at – pay it forward!”  So, I optimistically started and built many websites, platforms, applications for teachers and students. I shared and made thousands of resources and spoke in a thousand conversations (this blog is but a drop compared to what I write in forum discussions). I really TRIED my best to give what I got.

Now, to get to the point – my idealism got the best of me. During these 4-5 years, corporations have started to “consolidate” the wild, wild web. Consolidate is code word for “control” which is a code word for “squeeze money out of those online”. This is not just in education.  I’ve become caught up in it.

Ning recently sent me this email for the umpteenth time….

5 Days Left to Choose a Plan

Friday is the final day for free Ning Networks

On 6/22/2007, a new social network popped up on the Internet. Yours.

Your network has grown up a bit since you started the ball rolling. You have grown to 16043 members who have collectively helped you add 2143 photos, 901 videos, and 1311 spirited discussions. Well done!

We’d like to see you continue

We’re contacting you today to remind you that you still have time to choose a new Ning plan. But, time is running out. If you do not choose a new plan by this Friday, August 20, 2010, the community you built will ultimately be lost.

Now you see – when I created EFL Classroom 2.0 and it “popped up” – it was under a TOS (terms of service) whereby I had control of the content and community. Ning sold me on this. They offered the “platform” but I controlled the code and the ability to transform, change and develop based on this. They also provided many free networks and said the world had changed – now anyone has a voice!

So I built many communities. 10 in total – 2 of which I paid $19.99 a month for. I put up content, spent days designing, spent days promoting and now they will all disappear. All of them. And along the way, Ning just kept changing the TOS on a whim, just kept making changes that kept putting a noose around those like me who believed in their “vision”. Over the years you could do less and less. Now they are hanging a whole lot of people. The noose just isn’t tight, they are pulling the lever. Here is just one of my communities that will be gone.

What I’m saying in a nutshell is that this is but one example of what is coming to the web. (see the comments at this article – The Death of the Open Web or the detailed explanation at The Web is Dead. Where there weren’t any walls – walls are being built each day. In education, we think of the possibility of the internet but I now, discontented see a prison being built. I don’t exaggerate. It is happening each and every ticking second. Companies are pulling in valuable teachers and one day they will spit them out or corral them as the walls close in.

People tell me – there is no such thing as a free lunch. Well, there is for these corporations such as Ning. They wined and dined us with “free” and now they are whistling to the bank. “The loss” is the free flow of information – which is to wit – the basis of all our prosperity and wealth.

I don’t begrudge companies or individuals making money online. They should be profitable. Just don’t change the rules of the game while playing. That’s disgusting.  So be warned everyone – there are a lot of companies doing the freemium thing and they WILL change the rules.

When discontented, I turn to poetry. I’m losing all my thousands of hours of work. I’ll remain positive, in some way, like my friend Basho who sang,

My barn having burnt down

I could now see the moon

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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2 Responses

  1. David Truss says:

    It’s underhanded and quite simply unfair. You raise a really good point about changing the Terms of Service. I just think of all the archives student work that will disappear be it a private class ning or a ning that was shared with the world. So much lost!
    We need to think about this as educators too when we look at the learning management systems that we use. I had a number of sites lost due to Sharepoint upgrades that made the transfer too time consuming and costly.
    On the one hand you can read about people’s (stupid) digital footprints harming their future, and then you see learning environments disappearing… it seems quite backwards!

  2. ddeubel says:


    that’s exactly the point – “loss” of so much effort and work. Ning says you can export it. I did and it is just A) to long a process and technical B) results in a hodgepodge of data that has no resemblance to the original or use.

    Ning should be held accountable to KEEP the networks archived. You can’t just do what they are doing. People signed on the bottom line and Ning should be held to that. Unfortunately, corporate overhaul and the PR factor think they can “spin this through”. Ugly.

    I agree about your warning – but it will be VERY difficult for others to really know what will happen down the road. How can us educators do “business” if we don’t know there is adequate protection and regulation. hard to fight these giants who operate in the billions of dollars while we are wondering about 19.99.

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