Sunday, December 02, 2007

On the death of educationet

Yesterday came the news that educationet is soon to die, as announced by founder Joe Rukin (messageboard Time for ednet to die).

educationet (or "ednet" as it's widely known) was set up to "provide spin-free news and campaigning information" (Educationet - The new UK News & Campaigns Site is GO!) at a time when there was very little online information disseminated. Looking back it's astounding how students' unions and the NUS were appalling at using the internet to disseminate information and mobilise support for campaigns - NUS for instance had at the time one of the most hideously designed websites I've ever encountered, complete with complex frames, Java and requiring software that many a university or college PC couldn't support.

(The number one rule in designing websites is to make them easy to browse on standard browsers, not expect people to install a new browser just to read the site. This is particularly crucial when the target audience are likely to be unable to install new software, such as most students using their institutional PC.)

educationet filled a vital gap, making it possible for ordinary students (yes actual students, not just sabbatical officers and their mates) from across the country to communicate easily, share ideas and develop campaigns, especially through the messageboard. The news stories were also a revelation, particularly in exposing NUS officers who claimed to be "independent" but were actually part of a faction (the Organised Independents).

Of course as time went on understanding of the internet grew and more and more online resources emerged, with Facebook in particular increasingly squeezing out traditional messageboards as a way to communicate. As Joe's successor as editor, Chaminda Jayanetti, noted:

to be honest joe, i suspect part of the reason why no one contributes news is that there is so little news to contribute. SUs work hard but these days to little apparent effect. Now they are happy to spend years on end discussing the finer points of 'governance' without doing any actual 'governing'.

When we were discussing this site in 2006, i looked through the early archives and there were plenty of reports on campaigns against RAE-driven course closures. Come 2006, and SUs were far more interested in throwing money at Bates Wells & Braithwaite for photocopied legal advice than they were in dealing with the government's (deeply flawed) RAE reform. In fact, I wonder how many of them even knew what RAE stood for.

Ednet was founded as a place for student union activists of all hues to discuss how to campaign effectively for the benefit of students. In that sense, it's an anachronism.

Time to die.
(Messageboard post: Re: Time for ednet to die)

Sadly much of this is true. During my one year on the University of London Union Executive the issue of the exact status of research students writing-up came up. For some of the sabbaticals the fact that it offered an option to get rid of an officer who was asking questions they didn't like answering was far more important than the fact that this is a very real problem area with serious consequences in areas such as student support and council tax exemption. The childish attitude of these sabbaticals was beyond belief.

educationet may be passing on, but many of the contacts made will last a long time. And the work it did in connecting people up will not be easily undone.


coffeelover said...

I suspect your obituary is slightly premature. Work is going on behind the scenes to save, at least, the archive of content and re-launch...

Josh said...

It's gone.


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