Google Lively Incident Should be a Caveat, not a Defining Moment

Just reading this post from Tom Barrett over at  Box of Tricks
where he points to my Google lively post about my students losing these great virtual worlds that they've created.

I started asking myself: what would happen if Google decides to axe Google Docs or Google Apps in the same way it axed Lively earlier this week? What if the internet connection is lost when you most need it? What if Google mess up? (is it really that improbable?)
Then I reminded myself that Google is probably the largest advertising agency in the world, a public corporation with over 20,000 employees worldwide who need to get paid and shareholders who aren’t in it for the good of you or me. What would happen to my files if Google decides Docs does not provide a sustainable revenue stream? What if Google appoints a new CEO who thinks differently? Are these things really so far-fetched in the current economic climate?
Finally I couldn’t help but wonder if we would not be better off promoting the use of Free and Open Source Software to create and share universally compatible and locally hosted content instead of the likes of Google Docs (visit the Open Source Schools website for more information on OSS).

Here is my response to Tom:

I think there is an important point to be made here -- what is the alternative?

Most school IT directors delete EVERYTHING in the summer time -- not archiving of student work. Additionally, if a student changes schools and doesn't think to backup their files - they don't have them any more any way.

Honestly, I think that Google Docs has a longer "shelf life" than the typical folder on a server at a school. I think of how many jump drives my students lose and how many of them come back years later to ask for that copy of the resume they left on the server four years a go -- there is no way for me to find it.

I just don't think that IT departments have the kind of archiving to compare to Google Docs. Sure, if the student is very responsible and can remember to store their files and keep the jump drive - fine. But I know for me, I often do not.

Besides that is the rule that if something is created or stored on a school or college's network that it is the intellectual property of that school or college - some may actually prefer to store those files at an offsite location rather than on the school network.

I don't think this is as clear cut as it seems.

I think that what happened with Google Lively should serve to add a caveat to our work, rather than a defining moment.

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