Monthly Archives: May 2007

New Platform Series on the Ning Developer Blog

Diego has been writing a series over at the Ning Developer Blog that highlights the technical evolution of the Ning Platform since we first launched it in October 2005.

If you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look at our architecture and how we make technical decisions, this is the series for you.

In today’s installment, Diego describes our decision to move exclusively to standard HTML, CSS, and PHP 5 alongside our Platform APIs to power your own social network on Ning.

As Diego points out, by using standard programming languages and then making the code available to modify, people who know HTML, CSS, and standard PHP can quickly and easily customize (almost) every aspect of their networks on Ning. It also means that you don’t need to know anything other than HTML, CSS, and standard PHP to create entirely new web applications on the Ning Platform, but that’s for a later post.

For those of you who are not developers but still want to customize your social network, the fact that your own social network on Ning uses standard programming languages is also a very good thing. It expands the pool of technical people who can quickly learn what they need to know to customize your network. This means you can more easily get the technical help you need to create the exact right network for you.

For these (and a few other) reasons, when we went from the first generation of social web sites on Ning to your own social network for anything, we created it using our Platform APIs, HTML, CSS, and PHP 5. It’s another way we seek to ensure that you have the greatest chance of creating the best, right, unique social network for you today using Ning.

If there are any topics you’d like us to cover in the series, by all means leave a comment here or over on the Developer Blog. We love to address your questions or write about the things you care about.

61,000 Is My New Favorite Number

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We’ve got plenty of reasons to celebrate today, but the most exciting one to us is that we passed 61,000 social networks on Ning this afternoon. Wahoo!

Why didn’t we celebrate at 60,000? Well, that was last week and we’re just getting a chance to blog about things other than our latest release now. It’s sort of like when my mom would send out New Year’s cards instead of holiday cards.

Thanks to everyone who has been supportive of the service and finding it to be worthwhile. You all rock the house.

Freedom at Every Level

One of the things that drives us here at Ning is the belief that freedom – especially in software – wins. When people get a taste of the freedom to change every aspect of the software they use, the genie is out of the bottle. When given the choice, people want the freedom to create, customize, and change things. People want to control their own destiny.

We saw this in the early Internet with online services like AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy. They were fantastic insofar as early email, chat rooms, and pages previewed what was possible online. But when people were offered the freedom to create their own websites – or, as analogy, their own AOL – they took it in droves. AOL continued to serve as a fantastic funnel for people coming online but the web overtook it in terms of sheer size because it gave people the freedom to create their own worlds, not just join AOL’s. The web enabled the freedom to create in a way that, as an online service, AOL simply couldn’t.

If a service starts off as a “walled garden” – with a narrow and fixed view of what people can do on its service – it’s not a platform, at least not a programmable platform. A programmable platform enables a person to change the features on the network directly. Don’t like how your network on Ning displays friends? No problem, you can change it. Want to add sticky notes on the discussion forum or a wiki to your network ahead of us offering it? Go for it. On Ning, you can change (almost) everything on your social network because we give you the application code to modify and use as you like.

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Saturday Night Unlive

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Tonight at 6pm (that is Saturday, May 19th at 6pm pacific daylight time), we’re going to be taking Ning offline for a planned maintenance window that we announced on the Ning Status Blog earlier this week. It’s a bit of a longer maintenance window than you’ve come to expect from us – which I view as a very good thing – but we should be back in action before 12am pacific daylight time.

We’ll be rolling out a new feature way down deep in the code that will bring a smile to the faces of our Operations team. That’s worth a couple of hours of doing something other than Ning on a Saturday night, no?

Thanks for your patience!

Taking Care of Our Network Creators

New ReleaseFor this release, we’ve chosen to hook Network Creators up with some new features designed to make your life easier and your network more flexible. We thought you deserved it.

So, take off your shoes, put up your feet, and let us show you what you’ve got:

  • You can now easily add multiple administrators to your network. They can take things off your shoulders for awhile. Remember you’re relaxing.
  • You’ve also now got more ways to display features (people, videos, photos, discussions, and blog posts) on your Main page. You even have the option not to show a feature on your Main page while still keeping it as a tab up top.
  • There’s a better, simpler way to manage members, invitations, and requested invites. This will let you see who’s been invited to your network, who wants to be invited to your network, and who’s enjoying your network right now. Ok, not literally this moment, but that’s coming soon too.
  • It’s now drop down easy to choose between English, Portuguese, or Spanish for your network from your Network Information page. Our inaugural languages may or may not be the result of languages spoken here at Ning Headquarters. We’re not saying.

For a detailed walkthrough of what’s in this new release, join Kyle for a quick 8-minute screencast.

A few more details after the jump…

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The Things that Matter

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Technology doesn’t create a social network. People create a social network.

That being said, the technology doesn’t hurt.

Giving you and your members more ways to keep the network fresh, new, and interesting is a crucial piece of the puzzle. New features and improvements are a small, but important way we can contribute to your party. It’s like our virtual Jello mold at your potluck.

We aim to put out releases of new features and improvements every two weeks. With this frequency, we stay focused on a few core values. Our goal is to have any new release from Ning:

  • Fiercely protect a simple, clear, and beautiful “out of the box” experience for your members and new Network Creators.
  • Offer you an equal or better set of options for customizing and controlling your network and the features you choose for it.
  • Is equal to or improves the invitations, sharing, and widget options on your network today.
  • Is equal to or faster than your network today.

New features enable you to constantly mix things up on your network. New features also give your members a reason to come back and contribute to your network in new ways. In some cases, a new feature is a nice add. Other times, it is the thing that makes your social networking dream a reality.

Most importantly, new features and improvements that make it over the bar we’ve set for ourselves are just more fun.

Beautiful Integration: Rawkus Records

One question we get alot is, “How do I integrate my network on Ning into my existing site or blog?”

The most obvious (and completely free) way to integrate your new network into your existing site or blog is to simply match the visual design, or appearance, of one to the other. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy to do.

Rawkus Records has done a fantastic integration of their new social network with their existing site using the Appearance options available on Ning.

Let’s dive into a couple of specifics…

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