For more than 20 hours this week, Google’s free Blogger service suffered an outage that temporarily removed some posts and prevented the posting of new items. That glitch came at a tough time for some professors and students who rely on the service for class blogs, as students were kept from posting final class projects.
I was one of the professors affected. I co-teach a journalism course at the University of Maryland at College Park as an adjunct, and we set up a class Web site using Blogger, which students in the course are invited to join so they can post their multimedia assignments. Today happens to be the deadline for final projects, and starting last night frantic e-mails began pouring in from students unable to post their work. What’s worse, it appeared that some assignments uploaded in the past few days had vanished.
Google posted a message on Twitter last night noting the outage: “Thx for your reports. To fix issues stemming from our maintenance last night, @Blogger is going back into read-only mode. Updates to follow.”
We asked students to use a different free service to turn in their assignments—YouTube, also owned by Google.
It took until about 1:30 p.m. EST for Google to restore the service. “What a frustrating day,” wrote Eddie Kessler, a manager for Blogger, on a Google blog this afternoon. “Here’s what happened: During scheduled maintenance work Wednesday night, we experienced some data corruption that impacted Blogger’s behavior,” the post explained. It said some posts were temporarily removed and that “those are the posts that we’re in the progress of restoring.”
Officials from Google could not be reached for further comment.
Google deals with hundreds of colleges and universities that use its free tools as official campus communication services, including the company’s e-mail service. Blogger does not appear to be included in that program, called Google Apps for Education. Nevertheless, many professors use the free Blogger service to set up class blogs.
Some, including Jim Groom, an instructional technologist at the University of Mary Washington, have argued that free Web tools can serve as a replacement for course-managements systems such as Blackboard. Blackboard has added a blogging feature to its service, but Mr. Groom and others say that using free tools is easier and helps students become familiar with an interface they can use for other purposes.
Any technology service can suffer outages, of course. And as my colleague joked, “What are you going to do? The services are free after all.”