A Lament to the Death of an Old Friend

I have to lament the passing of an old friend. It’s not a person so don’t let’s all get too maudlin here, it’s a network, and really it hasn’t passed on, it has just changed owners and probably very soon focus.  A screen shot of Ecademy

What am I talking about then? Good old Ecademy.

My first baby steps in online networking were taken on Ecademy where I found people who were in small business with good ideas and opinions and they were not afraid to voice them. There was a system of clubs where you could find kindred spirits willing to talk about the topic that you were interested in. There was a decent blog page where you would get a lot of people reading all of the effort you put in and the more effort you put in the better the feedback and comments. It was a good place to run through ideas.

Ecademy was good to me in one sense, I got to learn the online ropes and talk to a lot of people who were interesting.

You will notice that despite the fact that Ecademy is still up and running that the whole of those last two paragraphs are in the past tense. Because things have changed.

Do a google search for Ecademy and you find a lot of opinions, some good, some bad and some indifferent as you would expect. Do a little digging and you start to get into the bad. Go on the site and you see what the problems are, in bold and in front of your face. They scream at you.

I left Ecademy, although my profile is still there withering away as the links become obselete, because of the way the management treated the people who built the platform, the contributors, as children and annoyances. The last straw for me after a long time banging my head against a table as the management consistently shot themselves in the foot was when they threw out Sarah Arrow, a friend of mine on the platform at the time and now a friend in real life, for not existing. That’s right, she was thrown off the site for not being a real person. This despite the fact that she had met many of the management team in real life and they could easily see she had a pulse. What was the real reason she was thrown off? Well she dared to criticize the powers that be.

Many others had been thrown out before and there was a strange correlation between them all, they all were critical of the way Ecademy was moving and had voiced their concerns and they were all active, very active, on the platform.

So I left to go out into the wilderness of online life without a home water cooler to bounce ideas off.

Or so it was perceived.

Ecademy had really missed the boat and it had been outflanked by LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. And guess what? All of the interesting people who had been on Ecademy and had left or been thrown off were out there too. All that was needed was a home base to chat and help each other out.

Facebook provided that platform. A load of Ecademy refugees and others started to form groups on Facebook, where you didn’t have to pay for the privilege unlike Ecademy with its strange and constantly changing star system, where there were not different levels of membership and preference given to certain coloured stars over others and where the level of membership and what you could do on the platform didn’t change every couple of months due to the whims of the bosses and the limits of the engineers.

It is at this point before going back to Ecademy and taking a look at the ruins that I must give great credit to Steven Healey who set up a group called Prospect Networking on Facebook. This is my small business network where I go to get sage advice and have a chat, where I disagree with people and neither of us gets thrown out. This is what online networking is about. We share each others’ content, comment on it and point others in the direction of our skills, give referrals in other words.

In short it is what Ecademy could have been, once was in small part and In my opinion will never be again.

So where did Ecademy go wrong?

Firstly let me say that to begin with Ecademy got a lot right and there are still certain good aspects but I fail to see its relevance in the modern online social networking world. There are many reasons for this.

Firstly it is the tolerance of snake oil salesmen and LOA disciples. The blog page which had once been an interesting and varied place to go is nowadays a mess of blogverts, paeans to The Secret and blatant advertising.

Next the spam, oh the spam.

How many times and in how many ways is it possible to be contacted by SEO practitioners without any background in SEO apart from the fact that they are searching for the next sucker who believes that their business will become a multi million pound behemoth if only google would like them a bit more? (because lets face it, that is always the promise).

How many blogs can tell you that the universe will provide? (you just have to want it badly enough).

How many contacts will be asked for by people who will never have anything in common with you and are on totally different continents (and in many cases planets)?

And how many good people will be forced off the platform by this constant and never ending stream of spam, snake oil and SEO goodness?

Because that is what happened. People got sick of it. Compare it with the LinkedIn system of contacting where spam is quite rare because spammers get thrown out. It might be a bit more impersonal but it works.

So why am I penning this lament to Ecademy now? Why do I care?

Well, I put a lot into Ecademy in its time. I spent a lot of time there and I met a lot of my current contacts online there. I have a lot to thank Ecademy for. At one stage I almost did a huge business deal based on contacts made in Ecademy. Almost. It is not the fault of Ecademy that it didn’t work out.

However, and this may come as a surprise to many, it has recently been brought to my attention that Ecademy was sold last November for the princely sum of £1. The new owners have kept the directors on and I assume taken on the debt that the company had. The new owners are Triumphant Events and Daniel Priestly.

£1 is a long way from the supposed £2.5 million bid a couple of years back from a German investor and it just shows what can happen if you do not keep your finger on the pulse in the online world. You can make millions fast and you can make those millions worthless equally fast or even quicker. You need to have an out position and not be emotionally attached to your business so that you cannot get out when the time is ripe.

I wish all the best to Thomas and Penny Power, who set up and grew Ecademy, in whatever they do in the future whether it be within Ecademy or within all of the new businesses that they started up near the end of last year which I suppose were linked to the sale. The new Surrey Networking Group will take its place in their lives, and for many that is what Ecademy always was because outside of Surrey and the home counties it never really gained the traction and clout it needed. I really hope it works out for them and they can take the lessons learnt from Ecademy and apply them in their new projects.

Now when we look over the death throes of Ecademy, a place where activity is a sad caricature of its former glory do you think it has a niche online any more and can it regain that glory?

And yes I know that this entry will be spammed by Ecademy Blackstars telling me what a great, vibrant and happening place the Ecademy boardrooms are. To them I just say, keep drinking the kool aid if you like. Most of the good people, and there were a lot, have moved on.

Graham Hunt

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