Lost in the Clouds

A couple of weeks ago, Miguel Guhlin posted an entry that made me sit up and think about Diigo.  His reflections were about the decision that Diigo had made to start to offer premium accounts and how he was going to handle it personally.  He’s a pretty sharp guy and his post really should be read and thought through.  As you use web based services, have you really planned for every eventuality?

In many industries, we see cycle growth and I think that we all know about the bubble and burst that is common in business.  And yet, we continue to use the free resources that are available to us without a whole lot of thought about their continuity.  Then, all of a sudden, a major decision like the one that Ning made recently hits and there is outrage and feelings of betrayal for all of the loyalty given to a brand for their free offering.

There is a danger and it could happen at any moment.  As end users, we don’t necessarily know or care about a business plan.  We look for easy sign up, snappy response, functionality, and the reliability that the resource (and our data) is available the moment that we need it.  What happens when that’s not there?  We screen and holler and click harder to get it to work.  When it’s not available, it can seem catastrophic.  Witness the reactions when Facebook was unavailable last week.

Once we step back from the passion that we have for these free services, we really need to take a common sense approach to its use.  The glamour of having everything in "the cloud" is there.  Of that, there’s no question.  But, what’s the real cost?  Yes, there are those services available for an extra fee.  But, as Mr. Guhlin notes, we all have limits on our disposable income.  If that’s not there for the masses, what’s a company to do?  Not everyone can sit around and wait to be bought out by a Microsoft or a Google.

The price that we all seem to be OK with is embedded advertising.  While there were times that we wrestled with the concept of providing advertising for applications that students use, it seems to be an annoyance that we can put up with.  As school districts embrace social networking, it’s will be more "in your face".  A simplistic solution would be to ban its entire use; a more realistic one is to help students recognize it for what it is.  It’s the same reality that they’re going to have when they get home so it’s an opportunity for a little media literacy.

It’s also an opportunity for a little business plan literacy.  I awoke this morning to an article that indicates that Xmarks will be closing down its services.  The blog entry entitled "End of the Road for Xmarks" can be read here.  It’s not a quick or easy read but rather a history of the popular bookmark synchronization service.  While it doesn’t offer answers, it does open a window for insights to the other side of the story.

I found both articles referenced in this post very interesting and helpful to frame the issue.  I’m no closer to solving the ills of the online world, but both articles do provide some very well articulated insights.  If I’m teaching a BTT, BTA, or BTX course that uses or relies on cloud services, it would be a great starting point for debate, discussion, and hopefully a deeper understanding of how things really work.

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