Monthly Archives: January 2006

I Love Google Maps Mania

If you aren’t already a die hard Google Maps Mania fan, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s got a ton of great links to innovative Google Map mash-ups and tools for creating your own. They’ve featured a few Ning apps before, but that’s not why I am recommending it. It’s simply a great resource with lots of info on all the things you can do with Google Maps.

And, while you’re here, I’ll take a moment to highlight the Google Maps mash-ups on Ning that have caught our attention:

The Fords are one creative couple.

Saturday Morning Car Talk: A Little eBay Motors Map Mash-Up

eBay Motors Map Mash-up

I wanted to share a little eBay/Google mash-up we created in a few hours on Ning. While it may not be an entry into eBay Developers Challenge (the deadline is Tuesday, by the way), I think that it shows off a couple of things that make us unique.

Here’s what we did:

  1. Saved a new blank app on Ning.
  2. Dropped in the eBay PHP Pear
  3. Signed up for an eBay Developer Account.
  4. Added proximity searches. We wanted to search by zip code and distance from zip code. This wasn’t supported by the eBay PHP Pear code, but only required us to add five strings to the code:
    // Ask eBay for nearby autos for sale
    $result = $ebay->GetSearchResults(array('Query' => $q,
    'ProximitySearch' =>'y',
    'MaxDistance' => $dist,
    'PostalCode'=> $zip,
    'MaxResults' => 10,
    'Category' => 6001));
    
  5. Formatted the display of search results using a “model class” described in this
    article
    about eBay web services.
  6. Overlayed a Google Map. We wanted to display our eBay Motors listings on a Google Map. We took a few lines of code from Ning’s Restaurant Reviews with Maps and sprinkled them in.
  7. Sweetened it up with some CSS to make it look pretty.

A few points to highlight other than it took us a few hours to do this and now you can have your own copy in minutes:

  • One click and no set up to create an app (or dedicated server space) for free.
  • You can use *any* external web services API on Ning. There are some we’ve pre-built into Ning, including Flickr, Amazon, Google, and Yahoo but you can also use the APIs from anyone who offers them. If there’s no dedicated PHP module for an API you want, you can use regular PHP to make REST, XMLRPC, or SOAP requests. That’s why we created the Playground in PHP and not a proprietary language.
  • Even great developers love a shortcut. This app is now a great starting point for more sophisticated eBay web services apps. Any developer – novice or expert – can clone this web app and do with it what they please.
  • It’s totally open. You can choose to run your new eBay app on Ning or take it and run it on your servers. You own what you contribute and the licenses are set up so that you can take the code and run it elsewhere if you’d like.

If you happen to be looking for a car today, this might be a nice way to do it….

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Ning Advocates: Yoz Grahame & Phil McCluskey

I wanted to take a moment and re-introduce Yoz Grahame and Phil McCluskey, our Ning Advocates. They have a hard job with a simple goal: ensure that both technical and non-technical users of Ning get what they need from the Playground as quickly and easily as possible.

Phil represents the great country of Australia and is the creator of such Ning hits as Confess!, Review It (to set up your own Google Map mash-up for reviews of anything), Ning Press (our cute little blog app) and Storyteller. Off Ning, Phil is also the creator of the FlickrFox extension for FireFox, rubhub, and author of Divide and Concur.

As for Yoz, he’s the only person at Ning with a Burning Man wedding under his belt. He’s also been involved in several renegade e-democracy services in the UK such as FaxYourMP.com and TheyWorkForYou.com, as well as commercial projects related to the works of Douglas Adams (author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). He’s also a top notch hacker who has created the spread of (highly alpha stage!) good cheer on Ning known as Sweeties.

Phil and Yoz are here to help you with the large and small things on Ning. If there is anything any of us can do to help make your experience on Ning smoother, drop us a line.

You’ve told us that we’re doing pretty darn good, but we know we can always do better. It’s not easy building a great service that empowers anyone to create and enjoy social web apps, but that’s the fun of it!

New on Developer Discussion: Known Issues

A couple people asked us to add an easy reference to the known issues we’re working through right now on the Playground. As of this morning, we’ve added the “Known Issues” category on the Developer Discussion Board. Right now, we’ve got two issues around content roll-ups and query counts outstanding. We’ll be fixing them in the next release, which should take place either later today or over the weekend.

Thanks for the suggestion!

We’re Looking for the Newest Member of Our Team

Here at Ning, we’ve had the fortune of getting a lot done with a small group of highly productive and extremely talented developers. In the past month, we’ve been approached with a number of great opportunities to create new social web apps for us and others. Because of this demand, we’re looking to add another person to our team.

As a Sr. Developer at Ning, you’ll be joining a team of talented, passionate developers, including:

Ideally, we’d like someone here in Palo Alto full-time, however for the right person we’d consider a remote gig in our time zone (pacific standard time).

The opportunity is pretty straightforward:

  • Help shape technical direction of new, rapidly growing online service.
  • Build great software with a team of talented, passionate developers looking to make an impact on how people use the Internet in their daily lives.
  • Work on relatively autonomous, fast-paced projects in a flat org.

As for the job itself:

  • Develop new social web apps on Ning that are cloned, customized, and used by real people.
  • Determine new shared libraries, wrapper classes, and other developer features to incorporate into Ning’s online platform.
  • Ensure kick-ass performance, stability, scalability, and support of your social web apps.
  • Own your own projects – pursuing a combination of things that need to be done and things you want to do.

If you think we might be the team for you, check out the complete job description and drop us a line.

Thanks!

Running Ads In Your App

Our “Run Your Own Ads” Premium Service is free until June. This means that once you take your app premium (free) and sign up for “Run Your Own Ads” (free), you can get an Google Adsense account (free), or a Yahoo! Publisher Network account (free), drop some code into your app (free and easy), and then sit back and watch the big bucks roll in.

Both Adsense and YPN give you a blob of Javascript and HTML to plop into your pages wherever you want the ads to show up. A handy place for the ads is the top of each page — that way everyone will see them. To drop ads into the top of each page in your app, edit the xn_header.view file. At the top of that file, paste in the Javascript/HTML blob you get from Adsense or YPN. Save the file and you’re done: ads are on every page in your app.

If you want to get fancy, surround the Javascript and HTML with code to, for example, center the ads on the page. You can do with with an HTML <div style="text-align: center"> element before the ad code and a </div> element after the ad code.

Have fun!

Marketplace with Maps

Marketplace with Maps

One of the many cool apps on Ning built by our own Jonathan Aquino is a Craigslist-style marketplace that anyone can clone and customize for their own group or town. This version allows you to see listings by location on a Google Map. You can also customize all of the listings categories from right there on the front page.

If you are itching to create your very own map mash-up, this could be an interesting place to start.

Some of What’s Coming Down the Pipe Here at Ning

We’re going to be rolling out a bunch of new features in the coming weeks. Many of these come straight from requests or suggestions from all of you, so please keep ‘em coming.

A Service Overhaul to Make Ning Even Easier and Fun to Use.
We’re giving Ning a facelift and new features to make it easier to find and share social web Apps across Ning.
More Social Apps to Clone and Run.
In addition to giving the service itself a makeover, we’ll be making all of our current Ning Apps a whole lot snazzier and easier to customize. We’ll also be adding more “composite” Apps, or Apps with multiple features like photo sharing, a marketplace, a blog, and reviews all in the same place. Video sharing is also on its way.
Build New Social Apps from Scratch without Any Coding.
Some say this might be impossible, but we love a good challenge (as people are happy to point out!). We’re creating a way for someone with no coding experience to mix and match features on their App without knowing a lick of code. While this is a bit further out, it’s one of our primary missions this year and we’re deep into making it happen.
Support for Ruby and Other Programming Languages.
Today, we offer a sandbox for PHP and in the coming months we’ll be adding the same for Ruby and a few other programming languages.

We’ll let people know as soon as these are out there. In the meantime, thank you for using Ning and continuing to give us such great feedback on what we’re doing right and how we can continue to do better.

We love it!

Some of What’s Been Happening Around Here: New Features on Ning

There’ve been several new features and improvements we’ve been gradually releasing over the past month, and we haven’t detailed exactly what they are. We’ve had a little criticism about that recently, so it’s time to fix that:

All Ning Users can Create Apps.
Once you’ve registered for your free Ning account, you can jump straight in to cloning, coding and creating.
Run your own Google or Yahoo Ads for Free.
You can now run your own ads from Google or Yahoo on the social web apps you’ve created on Ning. When you sign in, follow the “Add Premium Services” link on any of your apps. It’s free through March.
Map your Domain Name and Hide Your Source Code.
You can now map your domain names over your social web apps on Ning and protect their source code. Just follow the “Add Premium Services” link on any of your apps.
Performance Improvements.
We’ve made substantial performance improvements to our little service which you’ll notice as both an app creator and user. Take it for a spin!
New Ning Sidebar.
In the first of several style upgrades that we have in the pipeline, the Ning Sidebar takes up less vertical space while providing more information.
Backup & Restore.
These two new functions make tinkering with your app risk-free. Automated backups happen every half-hour while you’re editing your files, whether you’re doing it through the web interface or SFTP. You can also take permanent backups when you’re satisfied. Rolling back and forth between versions only takes a couple of clicks, and the Compare feature helps you keep track of exactly what’s changed.
Merge & Reclone.
You now have two choices for catching up when a Ning app is improved: Merge intelligently combines the new code from the parent with your own changes, so you can add new features while keeping your configuration and styling. If you want to throw away the changes you’ve made and go for the new version of the parent, choose Reclone. Both methods leave your app’s content objects where they are. Facelifts have never been so painless.

These are just a selection of some of the things we’ve released and are working on. There’s plenty more right around the corner. If you notice any breakages or problems with the above, or have suggestions for what you’d like to see next, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The Virtuous Circle

'Cliche Mirror Squircle' by Xurble, on FlickrWant to see a cool little Ning-powered mashup? Take a look at Swivel by Martin Davidsson. It’s a cute way to explore Flickr‘s prolific Squared Circle pool by navigating the tag names.

There’s a little story behind this one, too. Martin first tried building his app using our own XNC::Services::Flickr module, but found it lacking. After getting it working by installing a different PHP library, he took the source code for our module and added the necessary functions he needed; then he sent the code to us, all of which was remarkably kind of him. We sent him a little present by way of thanks, and we’ll be uploading a new version of the module shortly. (In the meantime, if you’re signed into Ning, you can check out Martin’s version.)

And thus, the virtuous circle of collaborative development continues. Thanks, Martin!