Monthly Archives: June 2006

A Chat with Jeff Cain, Creator of The Utopia! Exhibition

Jeff CainFollowing on from last week’s chat with the creator of CCHits, we’re taking a look at another very popular Ning App – or rather, a set of Apps. The Utopia! Exhibition is both an art project and a contest in which visitors can submit and rate photographs. There are eight different divisions, each with its own App, cloned from our own very popular This Or That. The top-ranked entries in each division will be exhibited as part of Fair Exchange at the Millard Sheets Gallery, and the whole project is part of the 2006 LA County Fair. Note that the deadline for both submission and voting is this Sunday, July 2nd, at which point voting will be turned off – so if you want to take part as either an artist or voter, you’d better move fast.

This is a large and fascinating project which raises and exercises issues regarding the roles of artist, curator and viewer. It’s also a great demonstration of how relatively simple social apps can be used in new and ambitious ways. The man behind it all is Jeff Cain (pictured above right, photographed by Dercum Over). In this interview we wander through the issues raised by the project, the patterns of submissions and votes so far, and how he’s been using Ning to power it all.

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It’s Where The People Are

One of the reactions we hear from folks clicking around the new Ningbar is: “Wow – it’s full of people.” Sure, it’s full of people. Ning is all about sharing, communicating, doing stuff together. It’s people that make Ning work, by creating the galaxy of wild and wonderful things that fill it. It’s why we call them social Apps. And it’s why we’ve added the new friends list. We’ve made it available for all Ning Apps to use, so you only have to build it up once.

First of all, the basics: When you see a person’s icon in the Ningbar, it’ll have two icons on the right side. The first, an envelope, lets you send them a message. The second icon indicates your current relationship status with that person:

  • can be clicked to ask that person to become your friend.
  • means that you’re established friends.
  • means that you’ve asked to be confirmed as a friend and they haven’t got back to you.

The Ningbar offers many ways to explore the people using the current App and the whole of Ning. Clicking any person’s icon will take you to their profile, where you can see which Apps they own and use, who their friends are and what their friends say about them. If you know that a friend of yours is on Ning but know their email address and not their username, use the “Import Contacts” feature and it’ll show you where they are on Ning. (“Import Contacts” is a great way to find a whole load of your friends at once, and to invite others. We’ll talk more about it in the near future.)

So that’s how you build up your friends list, but what use is it to Apps? This is the really cool part – Apps can take advantage of our new friends and messaging features through our open API. If you’re an App owner who wants to provide a “Share this with your friends” feature, we can show you how. It means that every Ning App has social network features available right from the start, and – like the rest of Ning – it’s 100% programmable.

Introducing the Ningbar

Good Morning! Last night, while small children and dogs slept, the social web apps running on Ning got a little facelift and a ton of new features.

We’ve replace the Sidebar, formerly hogging the right hand column of every Ning app, with the new Ningbar – a completely customizable, dynamic javascript strip across the top of apps.

Ningbar closed (and out of the way)

The Ningbar

As you can see, it starts out closed giving your app full visual control of the page. But when you click on any of the buttons in the Ningbar, they dynamically open to a panel in the page where users of an app can take advantage of app-level search, messaging, address book importing, ability to add friends, and a quick view into what’s popular. You can also quickly see other people enjoying it and, hey, make them friends too.

Here’s what’s happens when you click on your NingID

Ningbar user panel

The People panel has your friends and other people on this App

Ningbar people panel

The Popular panel shows off this app’s top users and top tags

Ningbar popular panel

Cloning – newly christened Get Your Own! – is now a 1-step process

Ningbar get your own

All of these great features are now generated automatically as a part of any app on Ning. You don’t need to lift a finger to have these great new features as part of your group, hobby, interest, family, location, marketplace, or bookmarks running on Ning.

And unlike other services, if you don’t want the Ningbar on your app or you want to change how it looks, works, the panels you show, or how it behaves, no problem. As with everything on Ning, it is 100% programmable. We provide full documentation for how to change it or take it off entirely. Yes, you can take off our Ningbar if you want. We’re flexible :-)

We want to thank you, our fantastic community, for all the great feedback you’ve provided over the past 9 months. The Ningbar reflects what you’ve told us you wanted: more social networking features for your apps and 100% control and customizability over your app’s entire experience and visual design.

We’ve got alot more in store for the Ningbar and the Ning platform over the course of the summer, but the first order of business is to get your feedback on this puppy. We love your suggestions, opinions, comments, and ideas on the Ningbar, so we can make it even more of what you want.

We’re painting the town tonight!

So, as our good friends in Ops just mentioned, we’re taking our little service here out on the town for the evening. We’ll be back up around midnight West Coast time with new features and a lot more Ning to love.

In fact, I’ll write more in a bit because I’ll have some time while these guys are working their code release magic upon our playground. Bye for now!

UPDATE: So, we’re looking to come back up a little more like 4am Pacific Time now. So, have another drink on us and enjoy your Friday night!

A Chat with Fabricio Zuardi, Creator of CCHits

Fabricio Zuardi

We knew CCHits was going to be popular, but didn’t think it’d happen quite this fast. Since we announced the user-driven hub gathering the latest and greatest Creative Commons-licensed music – which, by my watch, was a mere two weeks ago – the site’s notched up over 200 inbound links from blogs, including mentions on Boing Boing and Lifehacker.

Back in February we asked our readers what they’d like to see us cover on this blog, and one of the better suggestions was “some interviews with the developers of the most popular Ning apps”. So, while CCHits was being launched, I fired off a bunch of questions to its creator, the multi-talented Fabricio Zuardi. In between uploading great tracks, fixing bugs, blogging and giving an in-the-trenches view of our REST API, he somehow found the time to provide these answers.

(Incidentally, if you’d like a nice soundtrack while reading the interview, I highly recommend either my favorite track on CCHits so far – The Celebrity Pilots’ We’ve Lost Kasparov – or my favorite track title – Goodbye The Band’s Show Me A Woman Whose Favorite Director Is Werner Herzog And I’ll Show You A Man Who’s Married To Her (That Man Is Werner Herzog))

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