Monthly Archives: February 2007

Our Instruction Manual

Happy Wednesday!

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I wanted to quickly highlight the fact that there is a great set of basic howtos and instructions within your social network’s “Manage” page under “Advanced Customization.” Yeah, kinda hidden, hence this post.

We also make this guide available to anyone here at Ning Documentation.

Hopefully, this quick reference guide will answer your questions and highlight additional features tucked into your new social network. I’ll also highlight some of the more interesting features here.

If these docs don’t answer your questions or you want to share some ideas with us, also check out the Network Creators network that we launched yesterday. There are some great conversations happening already!

Thanks!

Ah, the Irony…

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Today we had a database bug that we introduced last night when we were finalizing the release of Ning Version 2. We’ve seen it twice today which in both cases have slowed the networks on Ning down to a crawl. It manifests itself on Ning as people experiencing “hanging” pages.

The short term fix has required us to take Ning offline for an hour each time, once this morning and once tonight.

The irony of this bug is that it has absolutely nothing to do with scalability or the load we’ve seen today.

Yes, as you can imagine, it made us want to laugh and cry too :-)

For the technical or curious among you, here’s what’s happening: we’re seeing a fairly simple deadlock that is the result of our interconnected databases and storage systems.

This particular deadlock jams up an important component in Ning and the deadlock starts to propagate through the system as people intermix operations that depend on the lock and others that don’t, creating further locks.

As anyone who’s done multithreading knows deadlocks can be hard to reproduce which is why we missed the windows to fix it before it had an impact on you.

The good news is that we now know what triggers this issue so we think we can catch it before it becomes anything you experience. Additionally, we have a fix we just rolled out that we’ll monitor throughout the night.

We’d like to make it up to anyone who couldn’t give Ning a try today. Drop me a note at ceo(at)company(dot)com and we’ll give you a free month of running your own ads on your social network.

Thanks!

Launch Day!

They say launch days are never boring and that was never truer than this morning. We found a bug a few moments ago – one of those classic ones that get introduced when you’re trying to put the final touches on everything – and are fixing it as we speak.

Given that we want everyone to have a great experience, we’re giving Ning a break and should be back in a few moments.

I’ll keep everyone posted and thanks again for the great reception this morning. We really appreciate it!

UPDATE: We’re back in action before 9am PST.

We were down for about an hour as a result of a bug we introduced last night as we were putting the final touches on the all new Ning. It wasn’t a scalability or load issue, just classic burning the midnight oil.

We’ve set up a place to funnel any issues anyone is seeing as they use Ning today so that we can rapidly respond, fix, and generally ensure an awesome experience on Ning.

Check out our Ning Network Creator’s discussion on Known Issues & Bugs where we’ll post things people are finding and how we’re fixing them.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE

This post explains the bug we ran into today and what we’re doing about it. And, by all means, let us know if there’s anything we else we can do to be helpful!

Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned by Starting a Web Company

Two years ago, we started Ning to give everyone the opportunity to create social networks.

At the time, we called them social applications, but for us, our “eye on the prize” was to put social networks in the hands of anyone with an idea. We’re just about there with Ning v2 which we’ll release tonight.

Given this milestone, I thought I’d take a moment to share some of the things we’ve learned so far.

1. Build your product on your own terms.

From the beginning, we dreamed big and knew it would take us a while to get here.

The pressure today to build something fast and cheap is enormous. A lot of times that’s the right approach, but along with everything else in software and life, it also depends on what you are trying to do.

Feedback is fantastic and critical to creating something from nothing, but we were roundly criticized by pundits for not delivering on our big idea three months after we had launched the initial beta. The irony being, of course, that we were taking too long to create a platform to enable people to create their own social networks in minutes for free.

Speed is critical, but it has to be looked at in the context of what you are trying to create. In a two year stretch, we (1) released 24 simple social applications running on a completely programmable platform, (2) expanded the underlying programmable platform, (3) streamlined and improved the applications, (4) got lots of feedback on what people wanted from the service, and (5) pulled it all together to create Ning v2.

In Internet time, two years seems interminable but creating a platform and a killer application simultaneously with 27 people in two years is no small feat and we are really happy with the results.

Continue reading

Seeing A Little Less of Ning Today

Monkey

Happy Monday!

Today is a special day here at Ning HQ. We’re releasing a little bit of a major overhaul of the service tonight and we couldn’t be more excited.

To make sure that it’s got all the spit and polish it deserves, we’re going to be going dark from about 3pm to 9pm PST today. We’ll be here working away, so if you’d like to drop us a note, by all means do.

We appreciate your patience and hope you like the results!

What is a Platform?

PlatformA few weekends ago, I read an incredibly dry book on platforms called Invisible Engines. Even the name is dry.

They took an amazing topic and made it boring. Platforms are fascinating and shouldn’t be sold short with only academic or technical treatment. While I won’t get a book deal out of it, here’s why I love platforms.

A platform is typically defined as:

“a software program that makes services available to other software programs through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).”

This is an accurate definition but to me it doesn’t communicate the full power of a platform. Platforms are the cornerstone of software innovation for one reason:

Platforms give everyone the freedom to create what they want.

A platform means people can create, extend, and customize their application to meet their own particular needs. The result is a thousand or million variations that are the exact right perfect thing for you.

With a platform, you don’t have to appeal to the company behind the service for the features you want. If you have the time and the inclination, you can build them yourself.

It’s the software equivalent of Home Depot.

Understanding this powerful, yet simple benefit of platforms has historically been limited to the realm of developers. Yet, it’s one of the primary reasons behind the web as we know and love it today. The web browser (and HTML) was a platform that enabled anyone to create a website.

When we started, we wanted to enable a diversity of social networks the same way the web browser enabled millions of different websites.

We wanted people to have the opportunity to create their own social networks and to make them whatever and whomever they wanted them to be. As a result, it didn’t make sense to build anything less than a platform.

Like any platform, some things are easier to do than others on Ning, but at its core, almost anything is possible.

What is and isn’t a platform

Doom is a platform. Second Life is a platform. You can program the way either one of these games work. In fact, they give you a copy of the code running it so that you can change it at will. That’s a platform.

MySpace is not a platform. MySpace doesn’t let you program it. MySpace doesn’t give you APIs. You can’t change any of the navigation links on MySpace, you can’t change how they display your friends, and if you wanted to add a new feature to your MySpace page, say a marketplace, you’re out of luck.

Even if MySpace is not a platform, what people have done with the limited freedom on MySpace is inspiring. The diversity and self-expression of MySpace pages is profound.

True platforms let people take this freedom to dramatically greater lengths, but any freedom is good in my book.

The only book I think captures the power of platforms is Masters of Doom and I think that’s because I just really like their story. Not only is it a great personal tale of entrepreneurship, creativity, and the reality of start-ups and doing something new, it describes a platform with a Hello Kitty example. I love it.

Xavier’s BlueTube & Student Video Contest

This is pretty cool. Roadtoxavier created BlueTube, Xavier’s online video site.

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They’ve got a student video contest going on between now and February 12th. Now, I’m assuming that our Ning blog doesn’t have a huge following at Xavier (especially on a Saturday night) so this announcement isn’t going to light any fires, but it does show another – and totally different – use of Ning’s video service.