The Day the Nings Died - By Henry Thiele

A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the musicNings died.

I was greeted this morning by an English department chair in all black. She is mourning the loss of Ning. Although yesterday’s announcement is not good news, it is not unexpected or the end of classroom collaboration in a social networking environment.

My Grandfather was famous for using the saying “if it is too good to be true, it probably is” and I grew up hearing the phrase, so when it comes to stuff at no cost I am always cautious. For those of you that know me as Google Fan Boy #1” this may come as a surprise statement, but I always believe everything will eventually go away. Accepting that from the start makes the end much easier to take. However, I don’t look at it as a bad thing, I think of it as an opportunity. The death of one creates room for the emergence of another. Sure the new may not be the old, but it causes us to learn and change and from that comes new ideas.

Step back 10 years to the “dot-com” crash, which at the time, to some, looked like it might be the death of the on-line world. Out of the ashes rose powerhouses like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Wikipedia with models never seen before in the world. Ning isn’t even dead yet and the conversations have begun of how to replace it. Several people have said, and I agree, that it is time for us in EdTech to be forced to change and adapt - time for us to expect from ourselves that of which we expect from our teachers.

So let’s approach the problem from what we know and then ask some questions:

  • Ning probably will not be free any more.
  • There wasn’t another product like Ning that combined a pleasing and usable interface.
  • The management of the Ning was so easy.
  • At what price would you be willing to pay to keep the service?
  • What were the components that made it work in the classroom?
  • Can we find something that fits those needs?
  • Is it possible to get Ning to create an enterprise version of their product?

What if Ning comes back and announces that subscriptions for educators are $10 per year? I am sure plenty of people would pay up. IIf Ning created a version that I could purchase for my teachers and manage the accounts, and have a long term contract, I would consider becoming a paid subscriber at the district level. However, they would have to demonstrate that the product would have an escape plan. The biggest problem I see in leaving Ning, and any platform, is the cost and time involved in leaving. There is a real cost associated in leaving any product and we should always consider that when investing in a solution.

So, let’s all take a step back and examine our options, wait for an official announcement on the future of Nings, and prepare an exit strategy for every product we rely on. We should also take a moment to thank Ning for all of the progress it has helped us make in our classrooms and reflect on all they have given us for free. For now we can take solace in the fact that at least the music didn’t die - yet.

Henry Thiele - cross posted at