Monthly Archives: October 2009

Tonight’s release is live!

In the spirit of making features easier to use and rapidly fixing long-standing idiosyncrasies, we’ve rolled out various improvements to your Ning Network with tonight’s release. As we talked about here and here, this release includes an update to the default My Page layout and a new option for exporting the attendees of your event.

Here’s some more good stuff packaged into tonight’s release:

  • Your RSS feed for blog posts will now display the published date instead of the created date. This means the date of the post on your Ning Network will match up with the RSS feed.
  • Your RSS feed for photos will now display the photos themselves, rather than linking to them.

Let us know if you have any questions!

Have a Hershey’s Halloween

HERSHEY-sm

Everyone loves Hershey’s Kisses, but not everyone bakes with them. That’s where the Cookie Exchange comes in. It’s a Ning Network for members to share recipes and win prizes around the ultimate Hershey’s Kisses recipe.

One highly touted recipe to try out this Halloween is this one, for Kisses Chocolate Chip Cookies. Angela S. commented:

OMG!! This recipe is amazing!!! I baked these for my kids birthday and the outcome was so great that a lot of guest were asking me to bake more for future occasions! And I definitely will.

If you think you’ve got baking chops, make sure to apply to host the ultimate cookie exchange party, outlined here.

Cruising and twisting through RipCity

RipStik RipCity

A RipStick isn’t quite a skateboard, a pair of skates, or a bike — it’s an entirely new way to get around. Dedicated RipStikers can connect with other in RipCity, a the official Ning Network for those who would rather RipStik to get around, than use any other method.

For those who don’t quite understand the idea of RipStiking (or how to actually get the twisting action down), there’s more than 150 videos of people rocking out on their RipStiks. Once people have mastered the basics of RipStiking, they can get more adventurous, like in this video with a modified RipStik. Members are enthusiastic about commenting when they see something they like. Eric Peterson, who uploaded the video, promises that he’s doing his best to bring the RipStik with cables added on to the market.

In addition to Photos and Videos, RipCity has specially scheduled Chat sessions with pro RipStikers. The most recent one — last weekend — was with Team RipStik Pro Brian Dinnendahl. To add an extra level of fun, RipCity gives away a RipStik to one member who participates in each Chat session.

Friends or Enemies — now on Ning

Friends Or Enemies

What do Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, and Katy Perry have in common? All three have their own profiles, interact with fans and post updates and need-to-know info on Friends or Enemies.  This Ning Network, which was recently re-launched on Ning, offers fans a way to connect with more than just these three; more than 30 other artists, musicians and groups make their online home on Friends or Enemies.

All the different musicians who are blogging on Friends or Enemies are listed on the lower right. Each one blogs about whatever he or she (or them) is up to, including the Gym Class Heroes. Each blog post from the group specifies who wrote it. Interested in what
Matt McGinley is up to? Then read only his posts. The same is true for Eric Roberts and other members of the group.

In addition to providing a way for fans to keep up with their favorite groups, Friends or Enemies is also working on engaging current members with contests. One popular one is a Friends or Enemies t-shirt design contest, where the winner gets their design printed up and sold in the FOE merch store. In order to enter, members need to upload their proposed t-shirt design to the group’s comments, so it’s worth it take a look to see what the members believe represents the 65,000 plus members of FOE — and their favorite musicians.

Starting Friday: Export a guestlist for your event

In addition to the updates to the profile page layout, starting Friday, Event Creators on Ning Networks will be able to export a list of attendees as a CSV file on your computer. This allows you to create a guest list, print it out and bring it to your physical event. We’ve heard from many of you that this ability would make it easier to turn the events you create on your Ning Network into offline successes, so we’re glad to introduce it!

To export the list of attendees, first go to the event you’ve created. You’ll see a button in the Event Details section that says “Export List of Attendees (.csv)”:

event-guestlist_sm

Click this link to download a CSV file to your hard drive — this works a lot like the “Export All Member Data” option that Network Creators have today. You can open up your CSV file to see 2 columns: Member Name and My Page URL.

We’re looking to make more improvements to the Events feature, including recurring events, soon. Stay tuned!

Create your own virtual gift from scratch

So let’s say you’ve already resized a photo and turned it into an awesome virtual gift. Now you’re ready for a new challenge — to create your own virtual gift from scratch.

For this post, we’ll use Aviary Phoenix, a free web-based image editor. Another free application to check out is Sumo Paint. While we won’t cover tips and tricks to becoming an awesome illustrator here, Aviary has a nice set of tutorials that should help boost your skills.

Load up Aviary Phoenix and click “Start from Scratch”. You’ll see that Phoenix has some pretty useful tools, including Layers. And more advanced illustrators can make use of Raven, the Aviary vector editor, and Peacock, the effects editor.

For now, we’ll keep things simple and draw up a pretty sweet truck in Phoenix. Make sure that your canvas dimensions are a perfect square:

truck_gift

Once you’ve got something you’re happy with, go ahead and export your image to your computer as a JPG (or, if you want a transparent background, a PNG). You can resize your image to 64×64 pixels in Aviary, but I found slightly better results when I resized my image after exporting it.

Once you have your gift image, the rest is a breeze. Just upload your custom gift by clicking “Gifts” under the Manage page and selecting “Upload Custom Gift.” Here’s how our tuck looks in action:

monstertruckers_sm

For more details about uploading your custom gift, check out our article in the Help Center.

Stepping up to Serve the City

Serve The City

For urban dwellers who are looking to volunteer, but don’t know where to look, there’s Serve the City, a new Ning Network that connects members to volunteer opportunities around the globe. In their own words:

Serve the City mobilizes volunteers to show kindness in practical ways to people in need. Serve the City partners with homeless shelters, refugee centers, orphanages, senior homes and other associations and invites volunteers to offer practical help and support.

All over the world.

Members looking to get started can scope out the frequently updated Projects page. Projects are organized both by city, and by type. While much of the project is in Europe, there are cities participating all over the globe, from Cape Town to Baltimore. What’s there now, however, is only the beginning. Prospective members who want to get involved, but don’t see their city listed are encouraged to create a group for their home city and begin a new branch.

Profile Page Layout Change Coming Friday

Back in August, we changed the default My Page layout to feature the Comment Wall more visibly. We did this because commenting on profile pages is the single most popular activity across Ning Networks and, in looking at initial data, we wanted to optimize and grow this popular activity by making the Comment Wall more visible.

When we made this change, we heard from more than a few of you that the ordering of the Comment Wall above the Profile Information was a bit convoluted. When the Comment Wall was at the bottom of profile pages, you told us it was actually easier to find.

We wanted to give this experiment a bit of time to gestate and also see if it was something with which Network Creators and members got comfortable. While there was a slight uptick in the volume of comments left for people after this change, it was not enough to continue to support something that many of you didn’t like.

So, on Friday of this week – a good 48 hours from now – we’ll be changing the default profile page layout back to the way it was before. See a screenshot here (click the image for a full-sized view):

profile-small-size-2

This default layout will impact new profile pages and members who have never customized the layout of their My Page. As always, members can customize their layout simply by dragging and dropping their features to the ideal location.

While we appreciate the desire for Network Creators – and not just Ning and members – to control the default and ongoing layout of member profile pages, this is a spot where it just doesn’t make sense for us to focus. Instead this is the first of what we plan to be a flurry of feature improvements to address longstanding idiosyncrasies on your Ning Network.

We’re planning the release to go live at 5:00pm PDT, and we’ll continue to blog about other upcoming changes we’ll be making shortly.

Thanks!

Melissa Joan Hart’s two new roles; dancing and mommyhood

Melissa Joan Hart - The Official Website for Melissa Joan Hart

Melissa Joan Hart is most known for her roles as Sabrina, the teenage witch and Clarissa (of Clarissa Explains it All), but these days she has two new focuses; playing mom to her two sons, and kicking up her heels as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Whether you’re an old-school fan or have gained a new appreciation for Melissa, her Ning Network is the official place to connect with her.

As contestants get voted off of Dancing with the Stars (see some awesome videos here), the members of Melissa’s Ning Network are working on rallying voters to call in their support, and keep Melissa on the show for another week. Another member started a forum post where each reply includes words of support for Melissa, as she takes to the dance floor.

New Network Creators Network Coming November 9th

Sparkles

In April, we moved our Ning Network Creators Network to Get Satisfaction in an effort to address what we thought was a desire for people to have an independent place to share best practices around creating successful Ning Networks without our meddling.

While Get Satisfaction is a great service, we miss the Network Creators Network for immediate, candid feedback, the opportunity to talk through releases before they go live and, most importantly, a centralized place for us and Network Creators to help other Network Creators get the most out of Ning.

As we’ve been talking to you all, we’ve been thrilled to find out that you’ve missed it too. As a result of this serendipity, we’re bringing it back.

Especially as we are beginning the design and development of the next generation of Ning Networks – which we’re planning on launching three years to the day of our original launch in 2007 – we couldn’t imagine doing it without a Network Creator Network and your fantastic experience as Network Creators, observations and incredibly high standards of us and your Ning Network.

More importantly, we didn’t want to launch a new Network Creators Network without addressing in parallel what we’ve heard from you as the greatest pain points today in your Ning Network. If we did that, we’d end up spending all of our time talking about those and we have too many other things to do together to get the most out of this partnership.

So, here’s what you can expect from us between now and the end of the year:

  • A new public Network Creators Network launching November 9th with articles, blog posts, screencasts, updates on new releases and a staffed forum designed to help you get the most out of your Ning Network.
  • A redesigned Ning.com focused on new Ning Network discovery, Ning Network management and no default Ning-wide profiles.
  • Prioritizing the work to make existing features easier-to-use and address long-standing idiosyncrasies on Ning Networks rapidly in two-week intervals over entirely new features.
  • At least 24 hours advanced notice for small releases and 5 days advanced notice for large releases on the new Network Creators Network.
  • A detailed change list for both large and small releases on the Network Creators Network.
  • An bi-weekly email with links to the best of the new Network Creators Network and news from Ning.
  • Platform uptime goals of over 99.9% and continued performance optimization of your Ning Network.
  • Solicitation of early feedback and input into our next generation Ning Network on the Network Creator Network.
  • A revamp of our Ning Help Center to drive public, transparent responses and even more effective troubleshooting.
  • A better definition and ongoing conversation about what it means to be a premium Ning Network. Much of the criticism we see from Network Creators is a direct result of the gray area that exists between what we offer and what you want from us when you purchase the premium services on your Ning Network.

There’s no question that when we’re moving as fast as we can to innovate and deliver an ever increasingly awesome product, we are going to do things that, with hindsight, we’d do differently. While we’ll never be perfect, we certainly look to learn from experience, building upon a stronger foundation of what’s working with a new set of things that only makes it better.