Every Friday I like to toss out a thought provoking conversation or exceptional resource from the forum here on TechSavvyEd. This week, rather than pull a conversation started by someone else, I though I’d take a moment to ponder the direction of this website, the forum, and the general state of communities online.
It’s time…..or rather, it’s been a long time coming, and I’m just now getting coming to the realization that as the web continues to fragment peoples’ interests and the number of social networks, groups, and communities continues to explode, trying to maintain a loosely connected pile of programs is difficult. This summer I unplugged myself from the grid, and while I did the Forum here on TechSavvyEd was bombarded by every major spammer, hacker, and ne’er-do-well. Conversation ground to a halt as I failed to facilitate new discussion, and new members were locked out as I shut down registration until I could update the software on the site (even now I’m still using a version of WordPress that’s two updates out of date).
Now that I’ve finally upgraded the forum to a stable beta version of the latest phpBB software, the spammers have abated for at least awhile. Unfortunately, all of the wonderful plugins that helped people stay connected like RSS feeds are gone. In their place are individual topic subscriptions that are helpful, but different. The old style is gone, and I don’t have the means at the moment to make the forum look seamless with the site like I did with the old software. But all of that isn’t really important…
What is important is whether or not it’s worth maintaining the forum, keeping participation up, facilitating, and driving any conversation and/or sharing of resources with my own site, my own maintenance. Or rather, should I jump on the social network bandwagon and start up my own Ning site so the TechSavvyEd community will be able to share videos, pictures, and more in a neat, easy little website? I would really hate to create yet another Ning site, but the tools they provide are amazingly powerful, and simple, and it would be great to have access to them. unfortunately, I don’t want to lose that homegrown effort that has been amassed here, as I know several people have put in a HUGE amount of time and effort to collect these resources. At the same time, I really still believe there’s a need for a community like this, where educators can share practical solutions, resources, and ideas. Far too many of the educational social communities online right now focus on theory, big-ideas, and strictly push the highest form and use of all the new tools the Internet has to offer. Websites like those rarely benefit the average classroom teacher that’s bogged down in the daily grind of grading papers, creating lessons, and managing a family life at home.
Which leaves me with a bit of a conundrum. Do I possibly alienate future “average” teachers from joining by going with a flashy site that’s already built for me, and gives me ltos of goodies, or do I stick with what’s tried and true, continuing to patch and upgrade the site from time to time and occasionally pick up the random stranger that wants to participate in the discussion. Any thoughts?