Monthly Archives: December 2005

Season’s Greetings from Ning!

Christmas village on the piano, from Cedric SavareseThe whole Ning team would like to wish all our users the happiest of holidays. Relax, celebrate, enjoy! (And when you’re done, tell us all about it.) You may have noticed a few extra goodies from us in the past week, and there’ll be plenty more in the coming year. We’re looking forward to sharing them with you!

Turn up the treble, pour me a Bass

'Working the Jukebox' by Matthew Maskaant, www.qr5.orgBarman! Mix me up a couple of Restaurant Reviews With Maps clones, if you please – with a dash of something extra.

gmoore‘s It’s Happy Hour Somewhere keeps track of the best drink deals in Maryland, Virginia and DC. Note the Javascript-powered menu that dynamically tunes the listing for any particular day of the week, as well as the cute beer-glass icons.

Casting the net wider, terraces is compiling a guide to the world’s best Record Shops. It’s the grouping-by-location features that make that one special – check the country links on the left-hand side.

(If you’re in the mood for top drinks and great music shopping, I highly recommend Bar Vinyl next time you’re passing through North London. And thanks to Matthew Maskaant for the pic!)

Here come the Belgians! (And Bulgarians)

The flag of BulgariaA couple of internationally-flavoured apps: Firstly, a Добър ден (dóbər dén – good day) to all Bulgarians arriving or living in America! Looking for some other expatriates? Atanas can help you out; his Bulgarians in the USA is thriving, with discussions, events, restaurant recommendations and more. I’m intrigued by the discussion of torta garash, a cake that apparently tastes really good but requires the pulverizing of “like 3 pounds of nuts”.

The flag of BelgiumFor those a little further west, the bizarrely-named Foofies provides an exhaustive list of restaurants in the town of Leuven; 130 of them, to be precise. Leuven is known for “sporting one of the liveliest bar scenes in Belgium”, so make sure to stop by if you’re in the area. Until then, note that even speaking Flemish won’t save you from a restaurant called “Wok On Air”.

The Ning developers email list

Those of you who’ve been developing apps on Ning will know that we already have a couple of ways to find and chat with other developers. There’s the Developer Discussion Board, which serves well as a place to ask for help, announce your apps or report bugs. There’s also the IRC channel; great when you need an urgent answer to a technical question, or just want to toss some ideas around for inspiration.

Web forums and live chat channels have their advantages and disadvantages. (The medium is the message, as a smart chap once said. You learn about these things when you’re creating social apps.) So we’ve added another, different kind of place for the community to gather: The Ning developers email list. We’re hoping that it’ll be a good destination for the swapping of ideas and suggestions, assistance for beginners and in-depth technical discussions.

Interested in the Ning Playground? Want to chat about it with others who are too? Jump in.

Questions: Now with answers!

A big ol' question markA key area of social apps that we want to explore with Ning is that of knowledge sharing. We already have Restaurant Reviews With Maps (already repurposed for a variety of geographical resources), Discussion Board, Bookmarks and others. Now we’ve added a new example app for you: Question and Answer.

The impeccable work of Ted “goatee” Perchick, Q&A (as we call it around here) makes it very easy for those who need a question answered – just type something in the main text box, tag it, hit return – that’s it! It’s also easy for those who want to share their copious knowledge, as it lets them home in on those questions that haven’t been answered yet. Filtering the wheat from the chaff is a breeze with ratings on every answer. Plus, there’s an RSS feed.

There are loads of potential uses for this app: if you’re providing tech support, taking a class, running a hobby group or any other situation where people are helping each other out, you’ll probably want to take a clone of Q&A for yourself.

I’ve already got questions in the main app that could really do with some answers. If you know anything about Palo Alto, leaves or Einsturzende Neubaten, help me out here…

Our new tech blog is up!

Like many here, I’m of the firm belief that the more useful information we can give to our users, the better. Hence, I’m very happy to announce a great new resource: The Ning Tech Blog.

Given that we at Ning have a large chunk of experience in working with the Ning Playground, we decided it’d be best to share the fruits of that experience with you. There are already two great posts up from David Sklar (our PHP wiz) and Nancy Chacko (our quality-assurance guru), both of which contain very handy tips for debugging your apps. In the future we’ll be blogging about many different subjects relevant to those developing on Ning, ranging from effective use of the Content Store to nifty Javascript tools, from design and usability tips to security techniques.

We’ll be updating the blog regularly. If you’re building apps on Ning, or planning to, keep an eye on it. (Even better, you can subscribe to the RSS feed in your feed reader.) If there’s anything you particularly want us to talk about, let us know.

Taking a Short Break

Good morning from California! I just wanted to let everyone know that we’ve taken Ning down for a little break. We discovered something we did during maintenance last night has caused error messages in most of the social apps running on the Playground. We’re looking into this now and hope to be back up in the next few hours. Thanks for your patience. We appreciate it.

Badges badges badges…

For centuries, mankind has pondered the question of badges and whether we need them. Some have said: No, we do not need them, and furthermore, they smell. But these people have usually been angry and moustachio’d. Others have said: Actually, we quite like them – could we have some more please? Badges are useful for communicating simple messages, usually about the wearer; such as “I rather enjoy cake”, “I have 117 cats” and “I believe you to be angry and moustachio’d”.

Here at Ning Incorporated we’ve decided that we like badges a lot, except for one problem with the current model: they don’t change. If you get a new cat, the number has gone up to 118 and your proudly-worn badge is now obsolete. So we’ve come up with a new kind of badge. A better kind of badge. If you look on the left of this text, you’ll see an example of what we call a LiveBadge. It proudly displays the number of books I have added to Bookshelf. If you click on it, it will take your browser to the page that lists those books. Even better, the number displayed by the badge will always be correct, even if I add a new book after posting this blog entry. Is it magic, or yet another devious creation of Matt “Interconnected” Webb and Jon “Wunderkind” Aquino? (Hint: The latter.)

And it goes further than just Bookshelf – Jon’s added LiveBadges to Restaurant Reviews, Restaurant Reviews with Maps, Restaurant Reviews with Yahoo Maps, Rate My Teachers, Bookmarks, Photo Sharing, Bulldogster, Anytown Listings, Anytown Marketplace, Anytown Marketplace with Maps, Find-A-Developer, Wishlist (just in time for Christmas!), Discussion Board and Bay Area Hiking Trails.

To obtain a LiveBadge for yourself from any of these apps, simply go to your Profile page on that app – the one that displays everything you’ve added. (For example, in Bookmarks, it’s called “My Bookmarks”.) You’ll find your LiveBadge at the bottom of the page, with a link to the HTML code required to add the badge to any web page – it doesn’t have to be on Ning.

I know what you’ll ask next: “That’s all very well, but how do I add LiveBadges to my own apps?” Good question. We’re thinking of creating an easy way to do this for everyone. However, it’s just possible that one of you clever Ning hackers out there may have a look at the existing code and beat us to it – and there’ll be shining glory for you if you do…