UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

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The Demise of Eduspaces

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 Dec 2007

I have just received the following email:

Subject: Important EduSpaces news

Hi All,

We would like to inform all users of EduSpaces that we will be shutting down the service on Jan 10th, 2008.

We have provided a mechanism for you to export all your blog posts in either an RSS format or HTML. To do this, go to your blog and select the submenu option you require. For those of you with files, you might want to download those as well.

Thank you to everyone who has supported EduSpaces over the last three years.

So on 16th December I received notification that any content hosted on EduSpaces will be unavailable early in the New Year. Not much time to do anything, is it? And most unfortunate for anyone who is taken an extended break over Christmas.

But at least they aren’t in breach of their terms and conditions:

  • We reserve the right to modify or terminate the EduSpaces service for any reason, without notice at any time.
  • We reserve the right to alter these Terms of Use at any time. If the alterations constitute a material change to the Terms of Use, we will notify you via an appropriate method. What is a ‘material change’ is at our discretion
  • We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any time.

And Frances Bell (“Anyway thanks to elgg bunch, Eduspaces was nice while it lasted“) and Josie Fraser (“huge thanks to the whole Eduspaces team for the massive contribution and commitment they’ve made to demonstrating what’s possible, and to moving the discussion forward so much in terms of technology, and web 2.0/social technologies for education“) have both expressed their gratitude to the EduSpaces team.

But what does this tell us about the sustainability of such services? And what lessons can be learnt?

Was their policy on openness (“We claim no intellectual property rights over any material you provide to the EduSpaces service“) a contributory factor to the difficulties Eduspaces seem to have in finding funding to provide a sustainable service? In a recent post on The open source misconception Ben Werdmuner commented on the unrealistic expectations that people may have about services driven by open source software such as Eduspaces: “... software is not developed by magical elves. It doesn’t appear like water, for free. People have to put time and hard work into creating it.” He went on to add that “Elgg in particular has no funding beyond Curverider, despite a common misconception that it’s the recipient of public grants or affiliations.

So did those of us who signed up to the service (including myself) fail in our responsibilities to our communities by not expressing concerns over the bluntness of the statement that “We reserve the right to modify or terminate the EduSpaces service for any reason, without notice at any time“? And as the service was relaunched on 8 October 2007 as “the world’s largest social network for education and educational technology” users of the service might be surprised at the sudden demise of the service.

And what will happen after the service is shut down on 10th January? Will the domain name become available, and likely to be taken over by a domain squatting agency or a porn company? This would be rather embarrassing for people, such as Salvor at Brighton) who has links to what is currently legitimate posts about their elearning activities. (Of course, a clever porn company would ensure that blog RSS feeds continue to be served, but delivering information about Russians teenagers seeking western husbands rather than reflections of elearning strategies!).

I’ve just discovered that I am not along in having such concerns.  Mandy Honeyman has commented that “I used eduspaces as my portfolio for my teacher training and so it is quite extensive if not necessarily public. I have downloaded via the html option, but what a mess! I guess I could install my own elgg just for me, but I’m about to move hosting so that’s not really an option. I guess I could install elgg on the server at school, but that’s windows, so that’s not an option either. This is a pain.

Or are such criticisms unfair – maybe we just have to accept that such services, which we do not pay for, will come and go and we need to spend more time and effort in planning for the demise of such services. And I think it is true to say that EduSpaces played a valuable role in introducing the benefits of edublogging and social networks to educational technologists around the world. For that, we should express our gratitude to the EduSpaces development team.

14 Responses to “The Demise of Eduspaces”

  1. ajcann said

    When I was a young man, I thought new year resolutions were naff, but I’ve made (and mostly kept) one for the past few years now. You just helped me decide what next year’s resolution is going to be: work out my strategy for surviving the bubble burst which is surely coming in 2008 and will result in multiple sites/services disappearing.

  2. I’ve just picked up this note about eduspaces shutting down from January 10th. So, according to some figures I have seen, there are now some 17,000 elgg aware educational users looking for a new home.

    The Learning Landscape for Schools, http://www.ll4schools.co.uk, is a recently launched elgg installation for schools. Some security measures have been added to the normal installation in order to provide a safe, social networking environment for both staff and students. At LL4S we feel that there is immense teaching and learning potential in social networking and the use of the web2.0 tools built into elgg but that the popular sites (MySpace, Bebo, etc.) do not provide a suitable level of e-safety to be used in the classroom. Also many Local Authorities block these sites which is another disadvantage!

    We are supported by E2BN (http://www.e2bn.org) – one of the RBCs responsible for supplying internet services to schools and Local Authorites in the East of England – who obviously take e-safety issues very seriously. LL4S want to provide a safe place for the educational potential of Web2.0 to be explored by staff and students alike. There is much more information on the site about how LL4S works and how to register a school and get accounts.

    As the demise of eduspaces has happened so fast LL4S is not really in a position to offer space to all the current account holders – many will probably fall outside the remit of our site. However, if there are now homeless blogging teachers out there that are keen to use elgg with their students we would happy to accept any existing data they have so they can continue their own blogs and bring a safe, global social network into their classroom.

    LL4S is not a free service as costs must be recuperated, expansion planned for and subscriptions are our only source of income. But I think we are great value!

    So, take a look at the site, read about how we work and how to register. My blog is here (http://www.ll4schools.co.uk/blog/). Please get in touch if you want more information about signing up.

    John Hackett
    john.hackett@ll4schools.co.uk

  3. pipthepixie said

    Those three T&Cs are the same as Google’s. What do you do when your Google account (or Google Apps account) is disabled?

  4. ajcann said

    Make like Fred:
    http://www.microbiologybytes.com/tutorials/ple/ple4.html

  5. Hi Phil – I’m not saying you don’t use such services, merely that you need to do the risk assessment. In the case of Google services, I will take a risk that Google will not go out of business.

  6. Mike Nolan said

    While Google is unlikely to go out of business, they don’t provide direct support for most classes of user. At best you can email and hope for the best or post of Google Groups and hope a Googler is reading (oh – you can’t because you can’t log in!)

    I agree that these are risks to be evaluated, and depending on a user’s agility in adopting or moving services are likely to be acceptable.

    Perhaps what EduSpaces proves is that Educational services are no immune to the same commercial pressures as every other startup. Welcome to the deadpool.

  7. Brian, I didn’t suggest Google will go out of business. I suggest that they can close any Google account arbitrarily.

  8. Hi Phil – yes they could, but would it be in their business interests to do so? And note that as a listed company Google have legal requirements to act in the best interests of their shareholders.

  9. Is anyone going to charge John Hackett for all the advertising space? :)
    Re account closures: All of the major service providers include termination of service notice (see this pre-closure announcement thread: http://eduspaces.net/mod/vanillaforum/vanilla/comments.php?DiscussionID=46&page=1#Item_5), they will all close down accounts if users are bothersome, break terms of service or are perceived to do so. It’s a different thing from withdrawal of the service though.

  10. Theresa said

    I had been looking for a social network site that was safe and family friendly but I could not find one that meet all my pivacy and safety concerns. So I decided to create a social network. This is a portion of a news clip about my site:
    Our-Social.com (http://www.our-social.com) is the clean alternative to the prominent social networking sites. The site’s word filter prevents members from being exposed to profanity and lewd or sexual comments – as well as racial slurs and other hate speech. To further ensure that the site remains clear of offensive material and is safe for all ages, all pictures, video and audio clips go through an approval process – which takes places within 24 hours of submission – before they are posted. In addition, Our-Social discourages members from ever publicly displaying information such as their e-mail address, real name and geographical location. As another safety precaution, Our-Social does not have a chat area but does provide a members-only forum. The forum is moderated and has several different threads

  11. Mark Sammons said

    To be honest, its quite difficult to find much sympathy for any party in all this.

    Ultimately, this was a free service which the guys at Curverider didn’t need to provide, but did so at their own expense in time and money. So are criticisms unfair? Definitely, and certainly not like some of the criticism on that thread. If that is an indication of the nonsense that the developers have had to put up with from the community, its absolutely no wonder that they are pulling the plug.

    At the same time, I don’t really have that much sympathy for the situation the developers have got themselves into. The service had no income stream and they don’t appear to have put a fantastic amount of effort into finding one. As such, their “explanation” post seems disingenuous at best and, with their demand for hand-outs combined with blaming all and sundry for EduSpaces’ demise (commercial software, central funding bodies et al), snidey at worst.

    In the end of the day, if you have content worth some value, it must be stored ultimately with someone with an obligation to you. OK, have it on an Eduspaces or a Slideshare, but ALSO have that content stored on your own institutions web servers or similar. People should see what is happening here as almost a blessing and a learning experience, because I’ll tell you one thing for sure, once the Bubble 2.0 bursts, you wont get 30 days to move your data off the services that go bust – it will be there one day and not the next, no warning.

  12. It’s not the content that is the issue really (although the export mechanism provided does not include comments or community blogs and file associations are lost). It is the network of users, not just the ones regularly corresponded with – the contact info can be extracted somehow – but also the serendipity of lurking in the wider Eduspaces community too.

  13. It seems that Eduspaces will not be closed… More details @ http://eduspaces.net/mod/vanillaforum/vanilla/comments.php?DiscussionID=53

  14. […] an open source social networking environment designed for the educational community which announced the closure of the service in 16 December 2007, giving the user community just a few weeks before the service was scheduled […]

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