Monthly Archives: February 2010

Celebrating and Supporting Theater

THE TOXIC AVENGER FAN CLUB!

Any lingering notions that theater is only for the elite, or for times when your significant other drags you against your will to some stuffy play, are officially dead.  Whether you’re into eccentric off-Broadway musicals, supporting your local theater company or grand Broadway productions, there’s a Ning Network for you.

Meet Melvin, the sweet nerd-turned-pollution-fighting mutant, who along with his beautiful librarian girlfriend, a corrupt New Jersey mayor and a host of other characters, will take you through the rockin’ romp that is “The Toxic Avenger.” Toxie Fans provides a fantastic interactive space for fans, cast members and the rest of Team Toxie to share reviews, find merch and tickets and campaign to bring the show to a theater near you.

Team Toxie is making great use of Videos on their Ning Network, where members can find a hilarious collection of episodes featuring Mayor “Babs” Belgoody (played by Nancy Opel) joining the New Jersey Gubernatorial race, and photos from Team Toxie’s trip to the New York COMICON earlier this month are on full display.

The more than 2,000 members of Toxie Fans have the opportunity to greet former American Idol finalist and recent cast member, Diana DeGarmo, who gives a great glimpse into her experience with “The Toxie Avenger” on her Blog.

If bright lights, big city is more your theater style, Ning is a great place to discuss your favorite show in a Group, or get up close and personal with Broadway stars. Ning Networks are also helping members to decide which shows and theater companies in their area are worth checking out, and what their next school or community play could be.

Liz is an Associate Community Advocate at Ning and hoping to catch the production of “Young Frankenstein” this summer in San Francisco.

Integrate your Ning Network with Facebook

Ready to integrate your Ning Network with Facebook? We’re putting the finishing touches on our Facebook App. It’s designed to help your members introduce their Facebook friends to your Ning Network.

We’re always interested in giving Network Creators the tools they need to grow their Ning Networks as seamlessly and organically as possible. Early last month, we launched Twitter integration, and in the following weeks saw powerful growth in many Ning Networks as Network Creators and their members started sharing content with their Twitter followers. We think our Facebook integration will be just as powerful, if not more so.

When the release goes live next week, you’ll see Facebook links on your content’s detail pages, right next to the Twitter links. Even better, you’ll find a brand-new Manage Facebook page, where you can quickly create a Facebook App for your Ning Network. Creating a Facebook App is not only easy, but it gives your members a way to post content directly to Facebook. It also gives you control over how those posts look on Facebook and identifies the content as being directly from your Ning Network.

Here’s a sample of how an event looks when shared on Facebook, once the Facebook App has been set up and customized:

facebook-small

Once you’ve created the Facebook App, your App will essentially serve as a Fan page on Facebook as well. So people who see posts in their News Feed from your Facebook App will be able to become fans of your Ning Network — and you’ll have another way to point people back to your Ning Network.

Creating the App will also add Facebook checkboxes to members’ Status modules and in key places where they add content. In this initial release of the app, members won’t be able to sign up or sign in via Facebook, but that’s something we’re actively working on adding down the road.

Ready to unveil your Ning Network to the 400 million people who use Facebook? We’ll update you here and on the Creators Ning Network when the new Facebook app is ready to be installed.

Win a trip to SXSWi with Ning!

Join us at SXSW Interactive March 12-16 and be a part of the Ning {RV}IP Lounge!

Experiencing SXSWi is something you will never forget and we want to send you! Three lucky Ning Network Creators will be our privileged guests, receiving backstage passes to all Ning events, a SXSW Interactive badge, travel and hotel accommodations and $250 spending cash.

In return, we ask that you take the experience to expand your industry knowledge, network with your peers, promote your Ning Network and most of all, have fun! We also ask you to blog, share photos and videos about your time on the SXSW Insider Guide Ning Network.

Click here for rules and to enter. Hurry, because submissions end Monday, March 1 at 2 p.m. PT.

Thanks, and we can’t wait to see you there!

Increasing Member Engagement: An Interview with NutshellMail’s Mark Schmulen

Recently named a finalist in the Ning Appathon competition, the NutshellMail Ning App allows your members to receive newsletters highlighting recent activity on your Ning Network. We recently chatted with Mark Schmulen, CEO and co-founder of NutshellMail, about the origin of the company, developing on the Ning Platform and their plans to launch a fully-integrated email newsletter service designed specifically for Ning creators. For more information on Ning Apps, please visit the Developer network.

Mark 02.17.10What is NutshellMail in, well, a nutshell?
NutshellMail is a free Ning App that helps Network Creators increase user engagement and site visits through automated email newsletters. “If you build it, they will come” is a big myth. It’s not enough to just create a Ning Network; to increase readership and engagement, you need to keep your members up to date on all the great content on your site. Email is still one of the best ways to keep members informed and to make sure they continue to visit your Ning Network. NutshellMail enables you to add an email newsletter feature to your Ning Network, and it simplifies the process through automation. NutshellMail automatically consolidates new activity from your network into a single email digest that is sent on a recurring schedule defined by each member who opts-in.

What inspired you to start it?
I have been a member of several Ning networks since 2007, but I found it difficult to keep track of everything going on across my networks. I am also on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn, which only compounded the problem. Our team developed NutshellMail because we all needed a simple way to manage our social networks. I used to rely on email alerts to know when to log into my networks, but my inbox was getting cluttered with too many emails from my social networks. The concept was pretty simple. We thought, wouldn’t it be nice if we could receive all of our social networking alerts in a single email digest?

How did you decide to start developing on Ning? What other platforms do you develop on?
We initially developed NutshellMail for Facebook and Twitter, but our users have been asking us to support Ning since we first launched. We didn’t need much convincing. With more than 2 million networks, Ning is one of the hottest and fastest growing platforms. When Ning announced the 2009 Ning Appathon, we submitted our application and were named a finalist.

Our integration with other platforms is one of the key factors for our success. Ning members who subscribe to their network’s newsletter can also add their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn accounts so that they can manage their entire online social lives through their email inbox.

Did you develop it with a specific type of user in mind? Or more for a general audience?
We developed NutshellMail for busy social networkers who don’t have time to hang out online all day but need a simple way to stay connected to their online social lives. However, we also developed our Ning App to help Network Creators increase member engagement and site visits. It’s a win-win for everyone. Ning members love how they can keep track of their social networks through a single email, and the Ning Networks benefit from increased member activity.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We plan to release a more robust version of the NutshellMail Ning App. The new version is designed based on the great feedback we have received from Network Creators. The new application will give Ning creators more control and features, enabling them to send email newsletter campaigns to all of their members on an automated schedule. It will include list management, editing tools and analytics so that you can customize your campaigns and measure their effectiveness. We are trying to make the creation of email newsletters as simple and painless as possible. All you have to do is schedule your campaigns, NutshellMail will automatically populate your email newsletters with content from your network and then send it out to your members.
If you are a Ning creator and would like to learn more about our new service, you can submit your email address to our beta. We are giving our initial customers free access to the service.

CAPTCHA for New Member Posts is Live

The spam tools release we blogged about here is now live on your Ning Network. Members who join your Ning Network with unverified email addresses, who are not part of a Ning Network with moderation, will now have to enter a CAPTCHA the first time they go to post profile comment. For legitimate members, this will take an additional few seconds while preventing “bots” – or automated scripts from spammers — from adding spam.

We’ll initially be rolling out the CAPTCHA only for profile comments. When looking at the data, our Spam and Abuse Prevention team estimated that as much as 70 percent of spam across Ning is posted on profile pages, so we believe this will be a valuable tool to help you limit the amount of spam you and your members see.  Additionally, we want to ensure that adding this CAPTCHA isn’t hurting your legitimate members from adding their comments. Once we’re able to see how this new CAPTCHA affects posting — both by legitimate members and spam bots — we’ll make a decision about whether to roll this out to other features like the Forum and Blog.

Please let us know on Creators if you have any questions!

A Night Out with Denver Six Shooter

Denver Six Shooter

Six bars. One night. Countless stories to tell and retell.

It’s all part of Denver Six Shooter, a Ning Network with a simple premise. Members journey to six Denver-area bars in a single night, and then post their adventures (and mis-adventures) to Denver Six Shooter.

Beer Jenn reports on their latest adventure, which occurred Feb. 2, on her blog:

I’m a beer girl. A very passionate one. But when it comes to going out, I almost always avoid downtown and rarely venture past my local bars. For the sake of my first Six Shooter, I decided to make an exception and wander the streets of downtown, at least the ones where you can find good beer. When Porphyry Kyle realized our night of drinking fell on the same night that a David Bowie cover band was at the Meadowlark, our final destination was determined.

Thus began our David Bowie Craft Beer Night.

Not all Denver Six Shooter events happen in the evening hours. In late Jan., Drew Bixby decided to do a “morning commute” — to visit six bars starting at 7 a.m. Over four hours, he visits six dive bars, the haunts of day laborers, the unemployed and the like. Not surprisingly, his six-shooter didn’t have other participants. All other Denver Six Shooter adventures can be investigated in the blog section.

The Gift of Giving Multiple Gifts

Giving one gift to a friend is a nice thing to do. Giving a gift to multiple friends at once — that’s multiple times as nice!

When we initially launched the Virtual Gifts feature, it was only possible to give one gift at a time. Personal, individual gifts have their place, but there are many situations where you’d want to give multiple gifts at once. Thanks to the recently-released gift-to-many feature, you can easily purchase and send multiple gifts at once (and so can your members). For example, you can now give thank you gifts to all your moderators at once, or send a slice of virtual birthday cake to everyone who is celebrating a birthday on a given day.

Send a Gift - Creators

To give a gift to many people at once, click on the “Give a Gift” link on the Members page or any profile page. From there, click the “Add” link to select additional friends who you want to send a gift to. One you select your friends, you can pick out the gift, enter a message, choose if it will be public, private or anonymous, and send away!

What it Means to be a Good Global Citizen

ProjectExplorer

Project Explorer is a nonprofit organization that produces free, online global travel series that are designed for family and classroom. It’s goal is to provides students with access to people and places they may never have seen or knew existed. Right now, the organization is running a new, video-based project that asks people to answer: “What does it mean to you to be a good global citizen?”

Participants include chefs Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain, actors Dulé Hill and Allison Janney, New York 1 News reporter Pat Kiernan and students around the world. For example, Hill says that to him, being a good global citizen means being “aware of what’s happening with my neighbor” — a neighbor being both someone who lives next door, or around the globe. Kiernan argues in order to be a good global citizen, you need news. “Informed citizens are better citizens,” he says.

More than 100 videos have been uploaded by members. Each tries to answer this important question. After watching a few, tell us what you believe makes a good global citizen in the comments below, or upload a video to Project Explorer’s Good Global Citizen project.

Introducing the Network Creator Council

Listening to Network Creators is a big deal for us here at Ning. Your ongoing input on releases, ideas on new features for your members, reporting of bugs and other issues and general constructive feedback helps us continually improve the Ning Platform and drive it forward. Last year we launched Ning Creators, a place to talk through releases before they go live, get immediate, candid feedback and connect with other Network Creators.

This year, we’re continuing this trend by implementing two other programs to help us keep an even better pulse of the wants and needs of Network Creators.

The Network Creator Council Program

The name’s a mouthful, but in short this is an exciting new program that consists of a small group of active Network Creators with whom we periodically discuss upcoming feature releases, and hold other targeted input sessions. It’s like a “power focus group” — only better (we think) — because we continue to hear from these participants all year round. While we are currently looking to grow this group and recruit for new members, we’re likely going to keep the membership relatively small (roughly 100 members) so we can maintain the deep, qualitative discussions that are so important for a program like this. By design, we’re including Ning Networks of all sizes and types in this program. Here’s a bit more about how the program works:

  • Council members are invited to Palo Alto, where Ning HQ is located, for a one-day summit. The goal of the summit is for us to learn more about the participants’ Ning Networks, tell them how the Council program works and gather their feedback on a series of upcoming features and other things we’re working on.
  • After the summit, we conduct regular conference calls so we can get more input from Council members on new topics or changes we’ve made based on input we’ve heard from Network Creators (either through the Council program or elsewhere).
  • Finally, we also have a private Ning Network that we host for the program to ensure we keep the lines of communication open with the Council members.

Information from the summit, phone calls, and private Ning Network is not divulged outside of the Council program so that we can maintain the privacy of our members and our own product development where it makes sense.

If you’re interested in participating in the Council program, feel free to email us with your name and Ning Network address (http://…). Participation is limited, so we can’t guarantee everyone interested will be invited to participate, but we definitely want to hear from Network Creators who are interested in providing constructive input. And don’t forget to continue participating on Ning Creators! We will continue to spend a lot of time on there listening and discussing your feedback.

Quarterly Online Survey

Last month, you may have seen an invitation from us to participate in a brief online questionnaire. This 11-question survey is a way for us to regularly measure how we’re doing in providing you with an awesome Network Creator experience. Our goal is to improve on areas you’ve identified as not as good, while continuing to improve on areas that you rate us higher on. We’ll be surveying a different group of Network Creators every quarter, so keep your eyes open for an invite in your email.

Both the Network Creator Council and quarter survey program are up and running. Like Ning Creators, we are receiving a lot of great input around new and existing designs, possible new features and other areas that contribute to your experience running a Ning Network experience. Thank you for your continued support!

Garnor, a Senior Community Manager at Ning, is on the hunt for Network Creator insights.

Interview: The Brains Behind SocialGiving

The power of Ning Apps comes from their ability to add new features and functionality to your Ning Network. Since we don’t offer a built in fundraising tool, we were extra excited when Pincgiving developed a Ning App specifically to help nonprofit and cause related Ning Networks. Beverley Claire Pomeroy, a Business in Vancouver‘s Top 40 Under Forty award and finalist for the Stevie Award for Top Canadian Entrepreneur, heads up Pincgiving and took time to let us know a little bit more about Pincgiving as a company, and updates for the SocialGiving Ning App.

Beverley_51Can you give me a some background about Pincgiving?
Pincgiving was launched in 2007 originally as a peer to peer pledge page solution. My journey into not for profit occurred when my youngest child was born with a life limiting illness and she suddenly found herself on the receiving end of philanthropy. After seven years, she decided to be a part of the solution and this is when the inception of Pinc began. Pinc is about harnessing purpose and passion.

Through our growing relationships with our clients and nonprofit partners, we have evolved over the last three years into an innovative platform for online fundraising initiatives and grown into being recognized globally.

Tell me a little bit about SocialGiving, your Ning App?
SocialGiving is all of Pinc’s online fundraising functions wrapped up into a little box specifically for Ning. It allows nonprofit, individual or corporate networks to be able to raise awareness and funds for the organizations and initiative they value.  It harnesses the power of giving on Ning.

You recently added some new features to your Ning App, correct?
With any technology platform you learn from those who use it and at Pincgiving we are no different. We launched SocialGiving in September and since then have made a number of changes. Donors no longer need to be Pincgiving users in order to donate, removing a huge barrier to a successful fundraising campaign. As well, those who add the SocialGiving app now get full access to donor reporting, allowing them to really engage with those who support their initiatives. We also built out an additional SocialGiving app that incorporates the needs of Political fundraising campaigns using the Ning network.

How did you decide to develop on the Ning Platform?
We really wanted to expand our reach and give grassroots initiatives the tools to create actionable opportunities within their own community both offline AND online. When we approached Ning about developing an app for giving, Ning embraced our project and really supported our development team with our desire to ‘do good’. With the leadership behind Ning, we were confident that our app would benefit from the Ning relationship.

Can you give some examples of Ning Networks using SocialGiving? Have you heard any success stories?
We have thousands of campaigns active on Ning using SocialGiving, one campaign having a tremendous amount of success is STAND Canada, an advocacy campaign against the genocide in Darfur. Other organizations are using SocialGiving to raise money for animal campaigns, local youth sport teams and recently we saw a huge number of Ning networks using SocialGiving to provide support for the recent devastation in Haiti.  When the natural disaster struck, Ning networks could immediately and easily create their own peer to peer campaign to support the organizations they value.

Do you have fundraising advice for Ning Networks focused on causes and activism?
My advice for Ning Networks focused on causes and activism is to ensure that you integrate your offline communications and activism with your online engagement. It is an important collaboration that often gets overlooked.