Monthly Archives: July 2010

Coming soon: You control spam suspensions on your network

Update: This is now live.

Reinstate-small

One of Ning’s primary goals in the past year has been ensuring that your Ning Networks are as spam-free as possible.

As part of this effort, we introduced some new spam-fighting features for Creators, and we built a behind-the-scenes system to automatically disable the accounts of members who we suspected of posting spam or posting too often. The system has achieved its goal. We’ve disabled hundreds of thousands of genuinely harmful spam accounts on the Ning platform.

This push to reduce spam hasn’t been without side effects, though. In the search to weed out spammers, ordinary members or administrators have occasionally been flagged and had their accounts disabled. Making matters worse, because Ning disabled their account across the Ning platform, Network Creators could not see who had been disabled or restore their privileges.

That’s about to change.

New Spam Suspension Controls For Network Creators

Next week, we’re releasing a set of changes aimed at giving you visibility into — and control over — how our spam prevention system works on your Ning Network.

Instead of disabling an email address Ning-wide, when members are suspected of being spammers by Ning’s system, their content will be made visible only to administrators, and they will be suspended from your Ning Network. Additionally, a note will appear next to their name on the Suspended Members page, explaining the reason they were suspended. On the Suspended Members page, you’ll be able to reinstate any members who may have been suspended in error.

If you visit the profile page of a person who was suspended as a suspected spammer, you’ll see a special warning message explaining the suspension, and you’ll be offered the option to reinstate the member (shown above) right from their profile page.

Any members who are reinstated will be protected from future spam prevention, meaning they will never again be automatically suspended for spam, as an administrator has indicated that they are a trusted member of the Ning Network.

Most important, if you still don’t want Ning automatically suspending spammers on your Ning Network, you can turn automatic suspensions off completely. Just head to the Members-Controls page under “My Network” and uncheck “Automatically suspend suspected spammers.”

This feature will be available to Ning Mini, Ning Plus and Ning Pro.

New Features: Appoint Chat Moderators + More Control Over Network Names

Ever since we rolled out the revamped chat feature last February, we’ve heard that Network Creators need more ways to moderate their popular Chat rooms.

We’re happy to announce that moderating your Chat room just became easier. Administrators and Network Creators have been able to moderate Chat for some time — using the “Suspend” feature to suspend members from Chat for a chosen period of hours.

Those controls, however, were limited to administrators and Network Creators alone. As of this afternoon, you’ll now see a “Chat” checkbox on the “Add Role” page (/main/membership/editRole):

ChatRole

You can use this page to create a new role for a “Chat Moderator”, or you can edit existing roles that you’ve created.

Chat moderators who enter the Chat room will be able to suspend members from Chat (but not from your entire Ning Network). This should make it even easier to ensure that your members are having fun and productive conversations on your Ning Network.

Note that you won’t see this checkbox on the Add/Edit Role page unless you have the Chat feature enabled on your Ning Network.

More control over your Ning Network Name & Details

As Network Creators have pointed out recently, Ning has some spam-prevention tool in place around your Ning Network’s name, description and tagline.

In some cases, Ning Networks or accounts with particular names could not be created if they contained certain phrases. In other cases, you could still create a Ning Network that had a restricted phrase, but warnings would be shown when sending private messages or broadcast messages, informing you that your email was likely to be tagged as spam.

With all Network Creators now becoming paying customers (if they were not already), it’s much less likely that a Network Creator will be a spammer. As a result, we’re dialing back on these particular controls — and networks with warning-generating phrases should no longer run into these messages.

My Network: Navigation Updates [Now Live]

After our launch earlier this week, we have been busy listening to your feedback on the changes we made in the product. One area has been the difficulty in navigating manage pages that some of you reported. We have investigated this in detail and it is clear we need to make improvements here.

These navigation issues fall under two clear but distinct areas:

  • General difficulty navigating the manage pages.
  • Not rendering the navigation links properly (options that show on the left side and the “My Network” tab).

To address these we plan to make the following changes to the product: (Please note that we are iterating over the mock ups and the exact functionality. We are sharing it here to give you an idea of what to expect)

  • Provide a “Shortcuts” view, so those of you who are used to the old manage landing page can still use it if you please. On the Dashboard page there will be a link to “view Shortcuts”. Clicking it will show a section with links in the same style as the old manage page. Once you make the selection to show this section it will become sticky (i.e. the section will always show) until you choose not to see it by clicking “hide Shortcuts”. 
  • ClassicView-Expanded

  • Options on the left side of the page will be auto-expanded so you see all the sub-options (without having to click each individual option).
  • AutoExpanded

  • A link to manage your Network will also show up in the Ningbar. This will not replace your “My Network” tab but will serve as an additional and cleaner entry point to manage your Network. Only you and your admins will see this link.
  • We have found problems linking how the manage pages render and options on the left side not showing up properly or being clickable. We will be fixing these known issues as well.

We are planning to roll these changes out mid to late next week. Again we appreciate all your suggestions and feedback. Please keep the feedback coming so we can continue to make the product better for you.

The new plans: features and improvements of note

We’re very excited with how smoothly our new plans rolled out this week. A number of you have already purchased a plan. Thank you! Given all of the communication we’ve been putting out in the past few weeks to get everyone prepared, we thought we would wrap up the first week with a summary of all of the new features Network Creators who have chosen a new plan have at their fingertips.

I’ve divided the new features and improvements into categories below.

Increased limits

The following increased limits only apply to Ning Plus and Ning Pro.

  • Place up to 50 tabs in your Ning Network’s navigation (up from 14)
  • Include up to 25 Text Boxes, 25 RSS feeds, and 50 total features on your Main Page (up from 5, 5 and 20, respectively)
  • Include up to 100,000 characters of CSS in your Advanced Appearance (up from 15,000)
  • Include up to 20,000 characters of JavaScript in your Analytics box (up from 2,000)
  • Ning Pro Only: Add up to 10 Ning Apps to your Ning Network (up from 5)
  • Add Ning Apps to your Main Page (developer must have added Main Page support to the app)

Control over your Ning Network

Selecting a plan gives you even more control over your Ning Network.

  • Your Ning Network now has a revamped, simplified Terms of Service, with no mention of Ning (soon, you’ll have the ability to add your own terms to that document)
  • The previous “Privacy Policy” has been removed, replaced by the simplified Terms of Service
  • Network Creators can now limit the number of photos that members can upload each day (head to the Content-Controls page)

Management Dashboard

Network Creators now have a shining, new management interface for their Ning Network. It includes:

  • New management navigation that no longer requires use of the “back” button to navigate between management pages
  • Statistics that allow Network Creators to easily see exactly how much new content is being added, how many new members have joined and how much content is pending approval
  • An “announcements” section, where Network Creators will see the latest Ning announcements and tips without leaving their Ning Network
  • A view into which profiles and what content is popular right now on your Ning Network

Login Changes

Ning Networks now have a sign up flow that doesn’t have Ning branding and is easier to troubleshoot.

Putting Your Brand First

With the launch of Ning Mini, Plus and Pro, we’ve reinforced the ability for Network Creators to put their brand first. The ability to have total control over your brand is an out-of-the-box feature of Ning Plus and Ning Pro, and Network Creators who have already selected these plans will notice a few positive changes.

Specifically, the Ning Burst no longer appears in the network bar, and the Created By box has been removed altogether. We’ve introduced a lightweight “Powered by Ning” tag in the footer, which is easy to remove if it’s not right for your Ning Network.

Additionally, we’ve updated the sign-up and maintenance pages to focus more on your network’s brand. Details below:

The Ning ID and sign-up experience

As John wrote on Tuesday, we’ve dropped “Ning ID” from the sign-up experience on your Ning Network. This means that when members join, they won’t see the “We use a Ning ID for authentication” text. This change reinforces our shift to individual Network IDs instead of a cross-network Ning authentication (as mentioned in Diego’s product roadmap post).

Likewise, we’ve removed links to the Ning Help Center from the Problems Signing In pages. To ensure that members still have a way to get support if they’re having issues signing in or up, we’ve also added an optional contact form. This form will be OFF by default for existing Ning Networks and ON by default for new Ning Networks. Evan posted about this in more detail yesterday.

You can enable or disable the contact form by clicking My Network and choosing Controls under the Members section in the left-hand navigation. Here, you can check or uncheck the “Allow members to report login problems” link.

Additionally, you and your Admins can individually opt in or out of receiving these emails by clicking the Settings link, selecting Email, and then checking or un-checking the “Feedback and problem reports” link.

Unbranded maintenance pages

About 99.999% of the time, your Ning Network is online and speedy. For that other .001%, we try to show maintenance pages that are branded to your Ning Network. Occasionally the maintenance we do doesn’t allow us to show a branded maintenance page — in those cases, Network Creators have historically seen a variety of pages, some of which point your members to the Ning Help Center or the Ning Status Blog. In order to reinforce your brand and prevent confusion among your members, we’ve de-branded maintenance pages. Hopefully you won’t have to see these at all!

Now available: Help your members with login issues

The most important action a member can take is signing up or signing in. If a member can’t do that, they won’t be able to do anything on your Ning Network.

It’s natural, then, that you should want to help anyone who has run into problems signing up or signing in. Now, you can do just that.

We’ve added a new contact form to the “Problems Signing In” page, as you see can below or here on Creators. Members who are having trouble signing up or signing in can use this form to contact your Ning Network’s administrators to let them know.

form

Administrators and Network Creators who have not turned off “Feedback and Problem Reports” emails will receive a notification when a member uses the form. They can then assist the member directly via email.

Members today can email administrators via the “Report an Issue” link in the footer of your Ning Network, but they have to be signed in to the network to access the form. Now, members can contact you even if they can’t sign in.

In our effort to emphasize Network Creator choice, we’ve left this contact form hidden on all existing Ning Networks. To enable it, simply click the new “My Network” tab, and then “Members”. Click “Controls” and enable the option to “Allow members to report login problems.”

logincontrols-small

This new feature helps ensure that as many people as possible can access your Ning Network. If you have feedback about this feature, please let us know!

Making Billing Easier for Network Creators

It’s Day 3 since the launch, and Network Creators who have selected a Ning Mini, Plus, or Pro plan will notice several billing enhancements we’ve made. Here is a quick overview of these new features:

Annual Billing
We now offer annual billing so you can pay once and not worry about invoices and payments for the rest of the year. Besides the convenience, annual billing also comes with a hefty discount that’s equivalent to 2 or more months of free services, depending on the plan selected.

One Bill per Month
Network Creators with multiple premium services may remember how invoices were handled—each service was on its own billing cycle, so a NC with 5 premium services may get charged on 5 different days during the month. We have now added the capability to prorate and align all subscriptions and consolidate charges into one bill per month. This will simplify the expense reporting process for many NCs.

sample invoice

PDF Invoice
A PDF invoice will be delivered through e-mail on the billing day or when you purchase new services. For each line item, the service period is specified so you know what service period you are paying for and how proration is calculated if applicable.

Manage Your Payment Method
Card expired, or just want to pay with a different card? You can edit your payment method at any time, and we’ll use the card of your choice (or PayPal) in the next billing cycle.

Introducing the New Dashboard: Window into Activity, Information and Statistics

With yesterday’s launch of the Ning Mini, Plus, and Pro plans, we rolled out a brand-new experience for Network Creators. You’ll notice it as soon as you sign in. We’ve replaced the old Manage page with a Dashboard, which offers a dynamic snapshot of your Ning Network.

You can access the Dashboard by clicking the “My Network” link in your navigation. All of the tools from the old Manage page are now neatly organized on the left-hand side of the Dashboard. While your members will continue to land on the Main Page when they sign in, you and your Admins will go straight to the Dashboard.
 This is a big first step toward providing you with valuable information and statistics that will make managing your Ning Network a lot easier.

Network Creators who are familiar with the old Manage pages know that it was limited in a few ways. First, its organization could appear arbitrary, and trying to find the right icon for taking certain actions could be a hassle if you weren’t already familiar with how it was organized. Second, it was a static page that didn’t surface new or interesting information.
 What follows is a quick introduction into some of the key elements of this new experience:

Members Section

 Members

The Members section gives you a snapshot of information about members who have recently joined your Ning Network. It includes a table which shows members awaiting approval and members who have joined in the past 10 days. 
Clicking the number under the “Pending Approval” column will take you to the Member Moderation page.

Content Section

Content

Similar to the Members section, the Content section provides you with a snapshot of information about the content on your Ning Network. The table shows content pending approval and content added in the last 10 days. All of this is broken down by content type — there’s a unique row for Photos, Videos, Blogs, Events, Forum discussions, and Groups. For quick moderation for each content type, click on the number in the “Pending Approval” column. This will take you to the Content Moderation page for that content type. One big improvement we’ve made to content moderation page is that you can now switch between different types of content all on the same page. For example, click the “Events” tab to moderate events, and then switch over to the “Videos” tab to moderate videos — without leaving the page.

Underneath the Content Section table, a chart shows day-by-day contributions from your members. Hover over a particular content row in the table, and you’ll see the relevant information in the chart below.

What’s Popular: Members & Content
The What’s Popular section surfaces information about who and what is popular on your Ning Network. You’ll see the most popular members, as well as the top content from the features you’ve added. It’s easy to promote or share what appears in this section — just hover over any piece of content, and you’ll see a tooltip that lets you feature, comment, or share it. Currently, popularity measures are the same as those found in individual features. We’ll continue to refine the way we measure popularity as part of the leaderboards and engagement work Diego mentioned in his Product Roadmap.

Ning Announcements & Message Board
The Dashboard is also the place to get the latest news from Ning, as well as tips specific to your Ning Network. Under Ning Announcements, you’ll find messages from the Ning Team about upcoming features, company updates, and other communications. The Message Board section shows communication specific to your Ning Network, for example: It will recommend features you haven’t added yet but that are available on your plan and may be helpful.

Navigation Improvements
Along with all this, we’ve improved the overall navigation so you can easily find relevant settings and options for your Ning Network. You’ll now see navigation links on the left side of the Dashboard and all other My Network pages. This left-hand navigation makes it easier for you to navigate from one page to another. It’s organized into Members, Content, Settings, Tools, Support, and Subscription sections, and each of these has its own sub-section.

Share your feedback!
For veteran Network Creators, we recognize that this will be a new experience, and it might take some time to grow on you. We have made these changes so it is easier for you to manage your Ning Network as features are added and allow you to gain more insight into what’s happening “right now.” For new Network Creators, welcome to the new experience! Please note that if your Ning Network is brand new, your charts and What’s Popular section won’t populate without content or activity. As you actively add members and content, you will notice these sections populating automatically.

We’d love to hear more about your experience with the Dashboard and My Network pages. Please let us know on Creators if you have any questions or thoughts.

Your Members and Ning.com

As we previously blogged and described in the plan details, your Ning Network now has a custom network ID. Based on input from our Network Creators, we are planning to end cross-network Ning authentication via a Ning ID very soon. This is part of our broader plan to give you more control over your Ning Network design and member experience. As a first step, today we dropped “Ning ID” from the sign-up experience on your Ning Network. This means that when members join, they won’t see the “We use a Ning ID for authentication” text. This won’t impact how your current members sign-in to your Ning Network. Their sign-in email address and password will remain the same.

One impact of this change is that only Network Creators are now able to sign-in to www.Ning.com . If your members or Administrators try to sign-in to this page, they will be asked to create a new account. You may want to instruct your members and Administrators to always sign-in directly to your Ning Network.

Changes to Ning Terms of Service: It’s Your Network & Your Data

Today, I want to let you know about some changes we’ve made to our Terms of Service and supporting terms to reflect the launch of our new service. A number of these changes have been long requested by Network Creators who desire more control over their members’ online experience. These changes are designed to deliver more freedom and control to Network Creators and to enhance the experience of all users of the Ning platform.

Highlights of the major changes include:

• It’s your network: A central premise from the very beginning of our company has been that Ning is an online service provider and that these are your networks. You have the freedom to create and control the content and members on your networks. We have revised our terms to further reflect this central premise and to clarify that it is the Network Creator’s responsibility to manage their networks and members. In keeping with this concept, the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy will no longer persist in the footer of your network. Rather, each network will now have a general set of terms. Soon, Network Creators will be able to customize it to suit their network’s particular design and focus.

• It’s your data: Along these same lines, we have further clarified that Network Creators have control over and access to all data associated with their networks, including registration information, profile data, answers to network profile questions, all content and other information contributed by members, and statistical information and analytics relating to usage and interactions within the network.

• Help is at your fingertips: We have created a Safety and Policy Resource Center for Network Creators to help you avoid safety or security issues with your members or address any issues that might arise. For all other questions or issues, you can continue to find helpful articles and resources in our Help Center.

• No more nudity: We will no longer permit nudity of any kind on the Ning platform. A little over a year and a half ago, we prohibited the upload of adult content and pornography to the Ning platform. At the time, we said that nudity that wasn’t adult in nature would still be allowed. Unfortunately, many of the issues that caused us to stop supporting adult content in the first place are still arising on networks that post content with nudity. We believe that the implementation of this policy will further reduce abuse on the Ning platform and will create a clean, well-lit environment for Network Creators as well as the advertisers and partners you choose to work with. Network Creators and members will have thirty days (until August 20th) to remove any nudity they may have uploaded to the Ning Platform prior to today or to transition their networks off of the platform.

You can find all of our terms and policies here.

Thanks for using the Ning platform to create your networks, and please let us know if you have any questions via the Help Center!