Monthly Archives: November 2009

How do you pick college football’s national champ?

Playoff PAC

Florida versus Florida St. Michigan against Ohio St. Bears against Cardinal. These are some of the greatest rivalries in college football. And while it’s easy to see who’s won the individual games, fans must rely on the mysteries of the BCS rankings to find out which team has been named the national champion.

For example, last year Boise State, Florida, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas, USC, Texas Tech, Alabama, and Utah all had either one or no losses after the 2008 regular season. Florida and Oklahoma were — in some people’s opinions — arbitrarily selected to play in the 2009 BCS title game.

Playoff PAC is a federal political committee dedicated to establishing a competitive post-season championship for college football. Members can propose a national championship plan, or debate the intricacies of proposals that have already been put forth. The Wetzel Plan may be one of the most famous proposals —  a 16 team field, with 11 automatic and five at large bids — but that’s only the beginning. Some members would rather see a 12 team playoff. Others want to go even simpler, down to eight teams.

The ideas put forth aren’t throw-away proposals. For example, Blaine Jay Smith‘s proposal for the BCS Plus 4 is almost 1,000 words long and includes multiple Excel spreadsheet attachments. The basics of his plan:

A 16- team playoff format that entices the power brokers of the existing four BCS Bowls instead of attacking them. The BCS Bowls invite four additional bowls to become regional (high-value consolation) bowl partners to the four original BCS bowls.
The host cities for these 8 Bowl games then expand their Holiday Bowl Week formats to include play-in games on Christmas week-end. The winners going on to the original BCS Bowl Games on New Year’s week-end and the losers go on and get a 2nd chance for glory by being welcomed to the wonderful Bowl Week activies at the alternate bowl game sites and playing in these high-value consolation bowl games, also on New Year’s week-end (where they are guaranteed to meet another top 16 team).

While there’s no guarantee that the existing BCS system will ever be revamped, that’s not stopping members and supporters from thinking creatively and strategically about what the future of the BCS and college football could look like.

Guest Post: We need each other

Ed note: This is first in a series of  guest posts we plan on publishing on the Ning Blog. If you are interested in penning a guest post for the Ning Blog, let us know in the comments below! Today’s post come from Douglas Aiken, the author of The Culting of Brands: How Customers Become True Believers. He is a partner at Purpose, an organization that creates 21st century movements and was previously the Chief Community Officer and Partner at Meetup.

douglas*hi_2Community is making a comeback.

This is good, because for decades groups, clubs, unions, associations and communities of all kinds have been in decline. And we’ve felt it. Over the years, I’ve examined research that has shown a steady annual increase in the number of people who want to spend more time with families and friends, and be more involved in their neighborhoods. We’ve been craving more connection at the very time that we’ve driven it from our lives.

We’ve been deviant for decades.

We’ve been indulging in aberrant behavior for too long.

Whatever the culprit…commuting, working two jobs, sprawl, relocation, fear of strangers, computer games, focus on getting stuff versus getting time for friends and family… not being part of a high functioning community is just not natural.

Belonging is not an option. Humans have depended on it for survival since one of our ancestors realized he needed his friends if he was going to eat when he faced a woolly mammoth alone with nothing but a stick. It’s wired into our species. As Richard Layard notes in his book Happiness:

All primates live in groups and get sad when they are separated. An isolated individual will repeatedly pull a lever with no reward other than the glimpse of another monkey.

Even today belonging and survival are intertwined. There is a ton of research that shows that those who are part of a social network live longer and survive life-threatening diseases and events significantly better than those who don’t. And they’re happier.

Now we’re normalizing in new ways.

Technology is enabling more connection and engagement. Platforms like Ning help us find and engage with others that share our passions and interests. Facebook and Twitter are keeping us connected. Tens of thousands of Meetups are recreating local community. We’re sharing, mobilizing, educating, supporting, and acting together to enrich our lives online and offline. Some are even using these tools to retool their societies.

But there’s a problem.

We’re a generation of lost skills.

In the 1950s, five percent of American adults were presidents, not just members, but presidents of some club or voluntary association or other. Being a high functioning member or leader of a community was both expected and supported. It was in the air they breathed. With the pervasiveness of association came ready access to the collective wisdom and support from others who knew how to run a network effectively.

We don’t have that. We’re groping our way back to what De Tocqueville identified as a unique characteristic of America (and an engine of its democracy); associating with each other in all kinds of ways for all kinds of common interests. Somehow we have to fill this knowledge vacuum. And do it fast.

Launching and running networks is hard. You realize this very quickly once you start. From observing and interviewing hundreds of leaders and members of communities of all kinds, I’ve seen that most fail because the leaders have good intentions, but few skills.

We need help… from each other!

Some of the best advice you can get is from others doing what you do. Sharing how you succeeded, or failed with others in the same situation is immensely powerful. How do you recruit? How do you create stickiness? How do you run successful events? How do you get rid of toxic members? How do you keep the great ones?

These issues are universal. Whether your network is online or offline, or both; whether it’s in Manchester or Manila, whether it’s about a better social life or social change, we need a place where we can share common needs and get advice from our peers.

The Ning Creators Network is a great place to get this. And I’m trying to do a similar thing on my own Network and blog: The Glue Project. The idea is that these tools will be used to make more social glue by enabling a key ingredient: skilled-up leaders.

And then we can enjoy doing what feels natural; being high-functioning members of social networks.

Giving back for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for eating turkey, watching football and planning out Friday morning shopping. For many people, however, it’s also a time to give thanks for what they have, and to give back, too.

Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. Hannah Montana) has teamed up with Youth Service America to launch Get Ur Good On, a Ning Network that encourages young people to get involved with service projects in their community. She’s encouraging members to upload videos of the own good they’ve done, to help spread the word about volunteer projects. For newcomers to Get Ur Good On, there’s resources for finding a new project to start volunteering with. Once members find or create a new volunteer project, they can also apply to receive grant money to support it.


Find more videos like this on Get Ur Good On

On 29-Day Giving Challenge, it isn’t about diving in to an ongoing volunteer project. Rather, the challenge is about giving a gift — any size gift, physical or immaterial — every day for 29 days in a row. Network Creator Cami Walker’s story is an inspiring one; after being advised by a spiritual advisory to give a gift a day for 29 days, she embarked on the challenge. “I began to notice that the more I gave away, the more abundance I was experiencing for myself,” she writes on her Ning Network. Members blog about their own giving experiences (more than 13,000 posts) on the 29-Day Giving Challenge to share their experiences and inspire others. If you are interested in learning more about Cami and her project, she also recently published a book that’s all about the transformation she and others have experiences during the challenge.

And that’s just the beginning. There’s Leaders for Communities, a Ning Network for emerging and established leaders in the community development field. Serve the City mobilizes volunteers to show kindness in practical ways to people in need. For activists, the National Marriage Boycott is a way for advocates of gay and lesbian marriage rights to stand up for something they believe in. Whatever your belief or cause, there’s a Ning Network out there for you to join and take part in, both today on Thanksgiving, and throughout the year.

Ning Creators at 2 Weeks

It’s been just over two weeks since we went live with our Creators Network and we are thrilled with what we’ve seen so far!

Here are some statistics:

With the help from our initial Guides and the ongoing participation of all Ning Creators, this Ning Network is truly becoming the hub to learn about growing and managing your Ning Network.

We hope you’ll come join us!

The party and the mystery is at the Bamboozle Festival

The Bamboozle Music Festivals

What started in New Jersey and branched over to California, is now happening across the country with Hoodwink festivals. The Bamboozle Festival is a two-day, annual music festival, that features, dozens of bands, fake names and an endless assortment of puzzles and clues.

If you are interested in find out who will play this year’s festival, put on your thinking cap. A blog post from Snoop, outlines how members can find out:

on Tuesday night, yours truly picked six fans who have received the first messages that will trigger the storm of clues, hints, fakes and confusion. the remaining messages will randomly be sent to those signed up to the bamboozle online community (courtesy of ning – shameless plug). if and when successful in figuring out the message, the fans will find a code, the code which verifies that the band, that fans has found, is a confirmed bamboozle artist.

of course in bamboozle tradition, times will be off and there could be one or two unexpected surprises.

While the first set of clues have already been sent out, there’s a good chance more will be sent out soon. The only way to receive a clue, is to join the Bamboozle Festival Ning Network. Once you get one, the puzzle can be started!

More Virtual Gifts improvements coming your way

Update: This release is live as of Tuesday, November 24.

In the coming days, we’ll be strengthening the Ning Virtual Gifts feature with a series of improvements that give you as a Network Creator even more control over how you customize the Gift Store around the context of your Ning Network. This update follows on the heels of our previous update to Ning Virtual Gifts, which you can read about here.

Network Creators can now choose from a collection of Award Gifts that only they can give to members. When you check out the Gift Store, you’ll see a new category for Award Gifts that’s only visible to you as a Network Creator. This is a great way to use virtual gifts to reward your stand-out members. When you upload a custom gift, you can also designate it as an Award Gift. To set a custom gift that can only be given out by you, select “Network Creator Only” on the “Upload a Custom Gift” page.

Keep in mind that these exclusive gifts won’t go towards your revenue share, since only you as the Network Creator can purchase them.

You can now choose whether the Gift Store updates automatically with new and seasonal gifts. We’ve seen an awesome variety to how you and your members are using Ning Virtual Gifts. To reflect that, we now give you the option to either automatically have new gifts added to your Gift Store, or add new virtual gifts yourself via the “Add Ning Gifts” option. Here’s what you’ll see when you click the new link for “Automatic Ning Gift Management”:

vg_update-sm

Get more credits when you buy in bulk. All-star members who are buying a large number of credits for virtual gifts will now see a bulk discount to their purchases. You’ll see how many extra credits you’re receiving when you purchase more Ning credits.

Use PayPal to purchase premium services!

We’re excited to announce that in the coming days, you’ll be able to use PayPal to purchase any of the premium services available to your Ning Network. We first introduced PayPal integration with the launch of Ning Virtual Gifts, and with this update we’re rolling it out to premium services as well.

As a result, the page you see when you click “Premium Services” from your Manage page. Here’s how it will look:

PayPal_premsvc-sm

This added flexibility makes it easier for Network Creators based around the world to take advantage of the premium services available today.

We’ll update this blog post as soon as this release is live. If you have any questions about using PayPal or your premium services, drop us a note in the Ning Help Center or join the conversation here on Ning Creators. Thanks!

Add HTML to your broadcast messages!

We’re thrilled to announce that starting Monday, broadcast messages will support HTML and feature a WYSIWYG editor, which makes formatting your text a breeze. This means that as a Network Creator, you can make use of the images, hyperlinks, and the rich text you need to send out a compelling broadcast to your member base.

A few weeks ago, you may have noticed that we snuck in a few updates that laid the groundwork for HTML support. Specifically, we increased the character limit to 10,000 and we gave the broadcast email link its own full page. But with Monday’s release, you’ll now see a WYSIWYG editor that allows you to add rich text and see what it will look like within the page (click on the image for a full-size view):

BroadcastMessageHTML_sm

To really spice things up, you can click on the “Source” tab and add inline CSS. Check out resources like this one for some CSS tips. And for a full list of supported HTML tags, check out our Help Center article here. If you have any questions, let us know in Ning Creators!

The Twilight Saga: New Moon, acted out on more than the big screen

The books have sold millions of copies, its movies have been seen across the globe and the official Ning Network boasts hundred of thousands of members. With the The Twilight Saga: New Moon released across the country today, there’s no doubt that Twilight fever has been caught by, well, pretty much everyone.


Find more photos like this on The Twilight Saga

One of the ways we’ve seen “twi-hards” express their love of Twilight is by creating their own Ning Networks. Their focus? Role playing and fan fiction. Member of these Ning Networks act out the lives of vampires, werewolves and their various friends and foes online. And the more I’ve looked for Ning Networks about Twilight, the more I’ve found.

There’s Twilight Beginnings, Forever Twilight Network, Twi-Lifers and then Twilight Saga Cullen Family. There’s the Cullen Coven. There’s even Twilight Indo, for fans in Indonesia. One of the biggest is The Cullens Online, with more than 1,600 members. On each of these Ning Networks (sometimes called “families” or “covens”), fans are using the built-in features — namely the profile pages and blogs — to assume the identity of their favorite characters and act them out. Members take on a role, like Bella or Edward, and then build out stories, writing them one message, blog post, or forum discussion at a time.

The love of all-things Twilight isn’t specific to Ning; for example, on Tuesday there were 81,000 tweets that mentioned Twilight. But it is on Ning where fans of the series and films can spend time, acting out the lives of their favorite characters, and building relationships with other fans. If you just want to connect with other people around the book, the 200,000 plus member Twilight Saga may be what looking for. But if you are looking to unleash your inner Bella, check out some of the Ning Networks listed above — there may just be a family waiting for you.