This semester, teaching two sections of “Technology 4 Teachers” at the University of Central Oklahoma, I really wanted to use free blogging platforms with my students which they could readily utilize without hesitation when they have their own classrooms. Last semester teaching at the University of North Texas, I used a commercial blog on 21classes.com with mixed results. This semester, my 9 am class is using a WordPress blog hosted by EduBlogs, and my 11 am section is using KidBlog. Tonight, however, I was compelled to upgrade ($15 for 3 months) to a Pro EduBlogs account because of the automatic, unsolicited advertising hyperlinks which were being inserted into my students’ posts since I had a “free” account. This is what one of the posts looked like “before” I upgraded.

Auto-linked Word Ads on EduBlogs

Afterwards, not only was the banner advertising removed, but also those extremely irritating and unwanted in-post hyperlinks.

$15 later - no ads on EduBlogs

Maybe this is something that EduBlogs has been doing for awhile on their free accounts, I’m not sure. I was prepared to put up with banner ads on a free account, but I absolutely couldn’t stand to have words hyperlinked on my students’ posts by the advertising scheme EduBlogs is running. Teaching my students to intentionally and judiciously hyperlink is one of the important skills I hope to help them develop this term. Having auto-inserted advertising links on their words struck me tonight as an affront. I know some of the readers of my blog are EduBlog fans, and I’m very appreciative of all the advocacy work EduBlogs does for the cause of educational blogging. I’m glad they’re finding a way to monetize their business model. I really object to this kind of in-line, in-post hyperlinked advertising, however… and on the basis of my aversion to that kind of advertising don’t plan to use a free EduBlogs site again for a class I teach.

Hopefully EduBlogs will consider removing this kind of intrusive advertising on free blogs. Does anyone else find this kind of linked advertising an affront? I guess the reason I feel so strongly about it is because I intentionally hyperlink with care when I write posts. It’s part of the “best practices” for effective blogging, IMHO. Having an automated advertising scheme make my words, or the words of my students, into ad hyperlinks feels much more like having an unpleasant vegetable force-fed down my throat than simply tolerating a sidebar, header, or footer banner ad. It’s more than I can take.

mr yukphoto © 2007 stallio | more info (via: Wylio)

On the positive side, upgrading to an EduBlogs pro account did allow me access to their “premium” themes, so I was able to activate the Regulus WordPress theme. I like it better than my previous choice for several reasons, but a primary one is that it shows the post author with each post. That’s important on a class / team blog.

21classes has changed their pricing model since last fall. I was on a monthly paid plan, as I recall they didn’t have a free option. Now they do, and it’s ad free.

For resources and suggestions (including blog platform options) for class blogging, see the “text” page of TalkWithMedia.com. Those include the post from earlier this month, “Individual vs Team Blogs for PreService Edu Students (Comparing KidBlog & EduBlogs.)

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10 Responses to Why I Upgraded my EduBlogs Account

  1. Allanah King says:

    Yes I found the hyperlinking to obnoxious so I paid for a subscription for my personal edublog. The other good thing is that with a paid account I can now embed video- I couldn’t before.

    The year long subscription is what I would pay to get myself a domain but I am not skilled or energetic enough to pursue that option.

  2. Steve Ransom says:

    I used to have my grad students use Edublogs, but when they moved to the two-tier model, the advertising in the free model was just too intrusive and the removal of most of the useful plugins made the service virtually useless. So, ever since then, I have had my students use WordPress.com It does everything they need it to do and has a high degree of control and customization. After looking at various options, including self-hosting, I upgraded to Edublogs pro at that time and have been pretty happy with it.

    I have no problem with the business move that Edublogs made and am willing to pay a fair price for a good service. The free model of Edublogs, as with other services, just isn’t sustainable over time.

  3. Ron Houtman says:

    Wes – I ran into the same frustration with Edublogs with the last undergraduate pre-service teacher class I was teaching. Soon after I gave out the directions on how to set up their blogs, and as we got into embedding screencasts my email lit up with students unable to embed their learning artifacts into their blogs.

    I too found out the hard way. We immediately switched over to Blogger. I really wanted to use something that was WordPress-based, but the no embedding and ads without paying was a deal breaker. I certainly understand that they have to pay the bills, but turning off embedding seems… just weird.

    Edublogs advised their reasoning behind turning off XML-RPC as something to do with many ‘splogs’ being created.

    So the solution to the next group for me is to add a sub-domain to my hosted server, and run Word Press MU and then add the Network Theme. This will give each of my students their own blog, and they will be able to experience WP and embedding – all without ads.
    (Link: http://wpmu.org/introducing-network-a-powerful-theme-for-wordpress-multisite-and-buddypress/ )

    I may even look at buying some cheap VPS space ( http://www.lowendbox.com/ ) for testing all this out.

    Looking forward, I really wish more schools of education would look at devoting a single blade in their server farms to education technology experimentation like setting up WMPU or portfolio systems like Mahara, or video hosting (as you’ve written about before).

    Good luck with your next class!

    Ron Houtman – http://www.ronhoutman.com

  4. GBoomer says:

    If their link advertisements cause you and others to pay them for a “pro” blog, edublogs will not be motivated to stop such intrusive advertising on free blogs. In fact, they may consider your reaction a good motivation to continue the strategy.

    I think a better move would be to protest strongly and move to another service, or threaten to do so.

  5. Wesley Fryer says:

    @GBoomer I concede my behavior is not likely to be constructive at this point in getting EduBlogs to change their ads… However if those stay the same I plan to use other blogging options in the future instead. Since we’re one third of the way through this term I don’t want to switch to a different platform for that class, however. My best option seemed to be a temporary, 3 month upgrade.

  6. Anonymous says:

    If you’re going to pay for a service, you’d be better off with something like EditMe, which gives you everything and far more than Edublogs does. Private student accounts , alphabetized in the teacher’s CMS, plus blogs, message boards and more.

  7. My response, Wes.

    Advertising Bug Strikes
    goo.gl/fb/u9z3S

  8. Steorling says:

    Edublogs disabled HTML (meaning no embedding), inserted those ridiculously intrusive hyperlink pop-ups (and, yes, those are content, people, not a style point…ask a rhetorician. lol), and then moved their banner ads into positions that their own templates can’t handle, after marketing EduBlogs as THE blogging service for teachers and providing a pretty decent service for a year and a half an. All these changes were made without ANY warning (It took me two days combing the site to find any mention of the changes while I was trying to figure out why my embedded videos were all broken.) and then they announced the “pay for premium” plan two weeks later when people’s boiling points had been reached. I will not pay to upgrade after such “burr under the saddle” marketing and I love how many times my account has been flagged as “spam” by their silly bot since. I maintain only the blog I “co own” for a site of the National Writing Project and leave my personal space blank. I’ve moved my “teacherly” blog to e-blogger. I think in digital environments particularly, you shouldn’t cave to manipulative tactics from those who claim to serve your interests, if at all possible. There are so many other (and superior) platforms for blogging out there, both free and pay, that just having the name “EduBlog” doesn’t carry any weight with me…a teacher…after they treated their first adopters so badly.

  9. Sue Waters says:

    We’d love not to have ads but like all companies we need to have a business model that is sustainable so we can ensure we continue to gow and provide our service.

    Edublogs originally provided the ‘Supporter’ route (now called Edublogs Pro) in 2007 where if you like what we did you could choose to pay to be a supporter. While we had great feedback it never came close to paying the hosting bills.

    When ads was introduced onto Edublogs in 2008 our monthly hosting costs were around $3.500, ‘Supporter’ was $25 (annually) and we’ve had about 30 – 40 people sign up for it in a year.

    Hosting costs are only a part of the total cost of running a business like Edublogs. Our users expect 100 uptime, good speed, constant improvement of features, support 24/7/365 days a year.

    In terms of XML-RPC and disabling ability to embed code on free blogs that is directly related to sploggers (people who create blogs to promote websites or products). We never wanted to block either of these from free blogs but we were put in a positon where it isn’t an option.

    Unfortunately there are companies that pay people to create splogs (spam blogs) and to write spam comments. They are an issue on all blog platforms and many social networks. A good splogger can mass create 100’s of splogs every day and we run highly specialised software on Edublogs to deal with them.

    Sploggers who use bots to create their splogs have very sophicated ways of mass creating splogs and one method is using the XML-RPC which is why it needed to be disable for free blogs.

    Similarly some sploggers were using Javascript re-directs to make the splog automatically redirect to their website they were promoting. This is why most blog platforms powered by WordPress don’t allow embedding of embed code.

    We still wanted our users to have this feature, while preventing the mis-use by the sploggers, which is why we’ve tied it to Edublogs Pro where a Pro blog has access to these features and is able to enable XML-RPC, disable ads, enable access to premium themes and enable embedding of embed code of up to 50 student (or other) blogs by going to Pro > Upgrade up to 50 Student blogs in their advanced admin interface of their Pro blog.

    Sue Waters
    Edublogs Support

  10. Wesley Fryer says:

    Thanks for providing all these clarifications, Sue. I readily understand your battle against spam blogs and comment spam. The individual word-ads were the thing which was the big tipping point for me.

    As I said, I AM delighted you have a funding/monetization model which provides for your continued existence and offering your services. I’m sure we’ll see many web 2.0 companies continue to to the way of gabcast, drop.io, etc if they don’t follow suite and devise viable strategies to turn a profit.

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