Filesharing and the attrition of centralised systems

I’m a dog with a bone now…

Following on from my previous post about the annoyance of mailbox size limits, this post from Judy O’Connell caught my eye – Fileurls just lets you upload and share files for up to 9 days, which can be password protected. So if anyone is planning on sending me an email with an attachment, can they just use this instead please (or Google docs is fine too)?

Which got me thinking – in our recent debate around loosely coupled systems one of the arguments against them was that educators wouldn’t want to do it. But I think the way it happens is that we still have the centralised systems, but their boundaries become blurred. For example, we still use email, but increasingly we use tools like the ones above, which are outside university systems, to actually share files. Then we use Skype for chats or small tutorials. Then one educator sets up just a placeholder in the VLE which says ‘Go to this wikispace for the course’ or ‘the course will be delivered through my blog’. There is thus a process of attrition around the institution’s systems which after a while makes them untenable, or largely irrelevant.


  • Judy O'Connell

    Martin, this is a really great well-targeted comment about the changes taking place within ‘walled-garden’ environments – not just in university settings, but in school education as well. It’s the escape route to relevance and sanity for many 🙂

  • Mark Sammons

    The problem with all this is exposed in your first paragraph: “if anyone is planning on sending me an email with an attachment, can they just use this instead please (or Google docs is fine too)?”.
    How many contacts do you have in your address list? I have well over 200. I cannot remember each and every web service each and every one of them uses. Here in lies the problem. What you are saying doesn’t scale in numbers or degrees of seperation at all.
    Calendaring is a great example of this. If the people you deal with are all on disparate systems, it simply cannot work because you’d have to have and keep up to date and synchronised as many different calendars as all the people you communicate with are using.
    For me, a great problem with all these is we are talking about different services (Skype, email, instant messaging, Facebook), as opposed to what they are as communication tools. What is Email? It is an asynchronous weighty communications tool. It is great for certain communications, terrible for others. Instant messaging is synchronous and requires both people to be online and available.
    Its when you start to think of all these communication tools together that you start to realise the possibilities. The possibilities of something like “I came to work this morning but was working at a desk in another building than I normally do. Jane needed to talk to me about a matter. She looked at my status and saw I was online and decided to phone me. The VOIP system redirected her call to the phone on the desk I was sitting on. Unfortunately at the time, I was in the toilet. I came back to my desk and found an email from the VOIP system telling me Jane had called with her voicemail attached. I listened to it and checked her status. It said she was away from desk so I emailed her a reply to her matter”.
    This is not science fiction, it is a reality in many, many organisations, and it can only happen if all of the different communication sources can be tied together. With what you are suggesting, they can’t. THAT is what will cause irrelevance.

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