Thursday, April 5, 2018

Farewell, Padlet

Earlier this week, a colleague pointed out Padlet had gone pay. As the EdSurge article points out, the cost appears to have gone from $0 to $100 a year (actually, $99 a year). The cost increase made me do what I have done countless times since I started saving content in online spaces--Decide to say goodbye to a tool. In fact, that's what I did with Diigo many years ago.

In Texas? 
Why don't you attend the 10th Annual Teaching and Learning Symposium at Houston Baptist University on Saturday, April 14th for the awesome prize of $10 for online registration. Find out more and register now.

After that controversy, they did develop (or maybe unveiled) their free education version. But to be blunt, while they have lingered on, I suppose they died a little that day as a service. Padlet, in its radical change, may also have just sank its ship.

 Apr 2MoreI'm so disappointed is no longer 100% free, not even for teachers. I can only make 3 more free padlets with my basic account. $99/year is not worth it. Looking for ideas for alternatives!

Before I do that, allow me to share this Google Sheet I put together for a colleague (viewers have edit rights, so feel free to add your own tools); read the accompanying blog entry.

Why Say Goodbye to a Great Tool?

I have had occasion to use great tools in the past, and, have even paid for a few (e.g. Diigo). But there are many great tools out there. Only Wikispaces honored its promise to remain free to educators. A quick mental inventory reveals I have monthly/annual subscriptions for the following:
  • Amazon Prime (annual)
  • Kindle Unlimited (annual)
  • Google Drive (monthly)
  • OneDrive (monthly)
  • Voxer (annual)
There are other subscriptions I won't list here, but as you can see, I'm already paying a bit out of my own pocket. While I am no longer employed by a school district, as a tech director, I can't imagine I would be urging teachers to spend $99 a year.  In fact, my first reaction to any teacher would be, "Find something else."

Radical Change Signals Poor Leadership

A friend recently asked, "Is our current business model working well enough to see us into the future?" My answer was, "Nope. You need to change now. If you haven't already begun, it may be too late. Competing models are already out there." The idea was obvious, but it got a push from the writings at Leadership Freak. The blogger there points out the following:
Every organization that needs a “major change effort” has leaders who waited too long to make change. Radical change means you’ve been out of touch with reality too long. You’ve been hoping the past will return to validate obsolete strategies and methods. It won’t. In a turbulent present, old strategies sink the ship. Self-justification, explanations, and excuses are attempts at justifying past behaviors, systems, and processes that lost effectiveness long ago.
As you might imagine, Padlet failed (not unlike Evernote when it dropped its RSS feed feature and made me consider dropping Evernote (which I eventually did later on) when it stopped working to come up with a working model for educators, as well as All the good publicity turned bad, then dropped.

No doubt, Padlet folks reading this are saying, "You used our service for so much, for so long, for free, and now you don't want to pay a miserable, as Gordon Dahlby chided me yesterday, "50cents a day" for such a great service? Well, to them all I say, two things:
  • My wife is a second grade teacher. We already give to the cause of education in my household
  • I would rather spend my money on tools like Google Drive/OneDrive that provide more value for the investment

Seeking Free Alternatives

The first evening after the news broke that Padlet was going "pay," I spent some time looking for free, open source alternatives. While there are many alternatives that are similar, Lino being the closest, I wanted something I could self-host on a server somewhere. I create Padlets for every other workshop I facilitate, so I will definitely need to find a replacement solution. There is always another competitor eager to offer free services. And, of course, there's also another option...use what you own or is free in a new creative way.

OneNote - Not Quite

For those of us that have free Microsoft accounts, 5 gigs of OneDrive space (free), and access to the OneNote, we might imagine using OneNote in a way similar to that of Padlet. In fact, Tom Grissom suggested that to me in response to a tweet.
But OneNote is no Padlet. You can drop boxes anywhere on a OneNote page, but you have to be logged in to do it. No stranger can just "walk in" and drop in text, pictures, links, etc. Even experimenting with permissions, it's not easy. So, I don't recommend OneNote as a replacement for traditional workshops.

Google Docs - With Some Modification

Now, Google Docs does offer an alternative here. It just means I probably would need to set up a Google Doc a bit differently (in tables) and coach people a little on how to best use it. Here's one example.... (get your own copy)
get your own copy...requires Google Docs
Another nifty example was created by Ryan O'Donnel. He's using a Google Slides deck.

Alice Keeler suggests using Grid view in Google Slides...

Here's a grid view of a slideshow I shared earlier today during a TCEA Get Your Google On webinar:

Not unlike Padlet, LinoIt has a lot of neat features. I suspect it hasn't gotten as popular (yet) as Padlet since it has a few quirks that make the interface "less clean" than padlet's post its on a page. And, pricing for Lino Premium, the Lino free account result in a less than satisfactory experience. So, give this page a long look before you decide to commit to LinoIt. Down the road, you may find yourself in the same place as where you are now as a Padlet user.

What To Do?

I suspect many of us will be finding new, creative ways to use Google Docs, Sheets, and Drawings in lieu of Padlet type apps. Or, for Office 365 users, OneNote for users who can login.

Actual letter I received:

Hi, Miguel
Today, we are changing our plans and pricing. I'm writing to explain the changes to you, why we made the changes, and that we are here to help you in this transition whichever way we can.

Your new plan

Our free plan, which you are on, is now called Padlet Basic. Padlet Basic comes with the following new features that you did not have under the old free plan:
  • Search
  • Themes
  • Stats
  • Premium wallpapers
  • Cross-device support for uploaded videos
Under the new plan, however, you can make only up to 55 padlets. As of this message, you've already made 52. 
Please note that there are no limits to the number of padlets you can post on, or the number of people who can post on your padlets.
Should you want to make more than 55 padlets, you'd have to either delete old padlets that you no longer use or upgrade to one of our paid plans. Other than unlimited padlets, they come with 25x bigger file uploads, priority support, folders, and much more. Plans start at $8.25 a month.
Think of your padlet quota as storage space on your phone. If you are out of space, you can either buy more storage, or you can just delete old files.

Why the change?

The simple truth is that with our old free plan, we made a promise that we can no longer afford to keep. We underestimated the costs of supporting our large user base. Many new features that we have added recently (like video recording, image search) have also added to these costs.
I wish it weren't the case and we could offer you unlimited everything for free. We are builders at heart, not business people. We want more people to use the products we build. A totally free Padlet would allow that. But thanks to the great teachers we had in school, we learned enough math to figure out that our old free plan did not add up.

We are here to help

Our numbers show that a lot of you will benefit from this change. But some of you won't like it. It is possible that this sudden hard limit on the number of padlets will disrupt your work.
If you are in this group, I'm very, very sorry. As someone who has been on the receiving end of changes like these, I know first hand how frustrating they can be. 
All I can hope is that Padlet has added enough value to your life that you'll continue to use it. I hope that we have earned enough love and respect that you'd understand why we made these changes.
We are doing everything we can to help you with this transition. We came up with the padlet limit on your account by adding the number of padlets you have made in the last three months to the number of padlets already in your account.
The rationale behind this arithmetic was that three months worth of extra padlets would give you enough time to evaluate your options should this new setup not work out for you.
If you have anything to say, you can just reply to this message or email us at We welcome all questions, concerns, and criticisms. 
Thank you very much for using Padlet. 
Love, laughter
CEO, Padlet

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

No comments:

Genuine Leadership #4: Gratitude