Monthly Archives: August 2010

Live now! New features for your Network Leaderboards

It’s been a little over a week since we launched Leaderboards for your Ning Networks. Since then, we’ve been busy working on several new features to make your Network Leaderboards even more powerful. Many of these come straight out of the requests you made on the Ning Creators Network — Thanks for your feedback!

Here’s a quick-and-dirty rundown of everything that’s going out today:

  • Every Leaderboard page now has a Text Box — this is perfect for adding more context, like explaining the rules for a contest you’re running.
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  • 2 new display options for your Leaderboards: You can hide the Network Creator and Admins, and you can hide members and content you’ve already featured. Up to you whether to hide these, or leave them as is.
  • You can grab an RSS feed for every Leaderboard page. Great for adding them to another site, or for creating a custom widget.
  • We introduced a drag-n-drop interface for the Leaderboards landing page, giving you more control over the layout.
  • Group discussions are now counted in the Top Discussions Leaderboard.
  • Share links now appear at the bottom of every Leaderboard Page.
  • We made some optimizations to improve how members and content appear. Specifically, inactive members shouldn’t show up and new members and content shouldn’t spike as rapidly.
  • We went ahead and made “popularity” sorts consistent with your Leaderboards across different features.

And that’s it! Hope these improvements help make Leaderboards an even more compelling part of your network’s social experience.

Add your own Terms of Service [Now live]

terms-small

Little more than a month ago, we rolled out sweeping changes to your Ning Network’s Terms of Service. As promised, I’m happy to announce that Networks Creators can now customize the terms that apply to your network and your members.

Here’s how it works.

Every Ning Network has a simplified, two-page Terms of Service at the bottom of each page. By default, these Terms include a number of items that aren’t ever permitted on the Ning Platform. You cannot edit these items. But you can now add additional terms that suit your Network’s particular design or focus. For example, a neighborhood-based network may want to limit membership to people living within a certain area.

While the default Terms are always in English, you can use the new ability to add your own Terms to provide Terms in whatever language fits best for your Ning Network.

Customize your own Terms of Service
Head to your “My Network” tab and you’ll see a new “Terms of Service” link in the “Settings” section. Click it, and you’ll be taken to the new Terms of Service page.

You’ll see the default terms at the bottom of the page. You’ll also see a large text box, where you can add your own Terms of Service. Anything added to this box will be displayed on your network’s Terms of Service page, above the generic terms.

You can even preview what you’ve written without saving, to see what your terms look like when combined with the generic terms. These changes should provide you even more freedom and control over your Ning Network, and make it easier to ensure a positive experience for your members.

Edit Member Content [Now Live]

We are happy to announce a new feature that allows you to make corrections and other copy editing changes to member content. This has been a huge ask from many Network Creators; to effectively manage your Ning Network, you need the ability to make copy edits and corrections to content your members create. Making such changes has been a very tedious process in the past. Your only options were to either contact and ask your member to edit the content (potentially a time consuming process) or delete the content (too strict in most cases).

We’ve made this easier with a new feature launch. You can now conveniently make appropriate edits to the content created by members on your network, including: Photos, Videos, Events, Blog posts and Forum discussions. You also have the ability to edit comments that members make to forum discussions.

When you visit a member content page now, you will see the option to Edit it, just like you see today when you create your own content. When you click to edit, you’ll see the content edit page where you can make the appropriate changes and save them.

As a Network Creator you also have the ability to give this permission to your trusted administrators or moderators, if you wish. To do this just go to “My Network” and click the “Controls” link under Content section in the left hand navigation. On this page there are two check box options under “Edit Content Permissions”:

  • Allow administrators to edit member content
  • Allow moderators to edit member content they are moderating

These options enable administrators or moderators to edit member content respectively. Please note that you have to explicitly enable these settings since they are not on by default.

EditContent-Controls

We hope you find this feature useful in managing your Network more effectively. Please stay tuned as we push out even more changes to give you better control over your Network and your content.

More Violins in Schools: A Ning Network Sounds a Call to Action

The Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium is a network of musicians, music educators, and citizens who are striving to revive music education in schools. Started in Boston and sponsored by Quincy Jones, the QJMC starts things off with a clearly stated mission: “To make music an ongoing part of the lives of children in the United States.” That was the first thing to draw me in, because it was something I can understand and relate to.

Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium

The Photos and Video posts bring the issue to life: Here are the kids — young and old — who have benefited from a musically rich education. Particularly endearing is Kathleen Orellena, an elementary school student from International Community School in Oakland, California. She took a moment to speak with the NBC News team about having the opportunity to learn music through the newly established MusicianCorps. (Fun fact: created by the same guy who created Americorps!):

“I feel good because I’m learning music I never learned… My favorite part is when we play the coquihalla de buro and a guitar made in, uh, Quito, and, um, I really like it.”

There is a strong focus throughout the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium on inspiring people, as Tabs like “Potential Star Teachers” illustrate. Even Quincy Jones jumps in with a Blog post about his experiences as a youth and why music education is so important to him. At one point he notes, “You have to know where you come from to get to where you’re going.” All members are invited to share via the Notes feature, and they do.

For the action part, the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium has linked itself with as many like-minded parties as possible. From Boston to L.A., this network is reaching out to everyone for support. If you’re from Boston, New York, L.A. or New Orleans, you can even join a Group for your area. Lastly, for those who want to make a financial contribution, the QJMC folks have attached a number of donor organizations to choose from.

It’s all here. By using the tools available on the Ning platform in all the right ways, the Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium is destined to succeed.

Live now! Leaderboards for deeper engagement

I’m excited to introduce Leaderboards for your Ning Network. Leaderboards are ordered rankings of the top members and content on your Network, and they’re powerful for two reasons:

  • For Creators, Leaderboards make it easy to discover and promote the best of your Network.
  • For members, Leaderboards spark friendly competition, establish reputation, and encourage deeper, more persistent engagement.

With today’s launch, you have the power to make use of Leaderboards in the perfect way for your Network. You can view the latest trends on your Network Dashboard, add Leaderboard pages to your top-level tabs, and even add a Leaderboard module to your Main Page. Details below!

Smart, Fresh, Flexible

As you explore the new Leaderboards feature, you’ll find that it’s smart, fresh, and flexible.

Leaderboards - Landing

Smart: On Ning, Leaderboards make use of a brand-new engagement system that’s going to continually get smarter. To calculate the Top Members, we look at a combination of quantity and quality. Basically, the algorithm boils down to asking, “How much is this member contributing, and how valuable are her contributions?” You’ll also notice that the Top Content Leaderboard takes in items across multiple features — photos, videos, blog posts, and events. Your members want to see the cool stuff now — they don’t necessarily care what kind of stuff it is.

Fresh: If your Leaderboard looks the same every day, it’s not going to encourage members to get involved. This was something we heard from many Network Creators who had used other Leaderboards in the past, and we wanted to make sure we built a feature that tells you what’s hot right now. By default, members and content get ranked based on the last week of activity. As an NC, you can set this to a day (if your network is really active), or a month for a more long-term perspective.

Flexible: We have some ideas about how you can use Leaderboards on your Network, but we wanted to give you the freedom to use them however you want.

For example, you can customize the Leaderboards landing page (/leaderboards) to display the 5 Leaderboards that are most relevant to your Network.

Or you can hide the Leaderboards landing page altogether, and add the “Top Members” Leaderboard (/leaderboards/topmembers) as a sub-tab under your “Members” tab:

Leaderboards-TopMembers-sm

Or you can run a quick-and-dirty photo contest by loading up the Leaderboards module on the Main Page and seeing whose photo wins the day:

Top Photos-Main Page-sm

And naturally, you can use the Language Editor to rename just about anything you want. There are a ton of possibilities, and we’re excited to hear about how you use the Leaderboards feature on your Network.

The Plan From Here

From here, we’re looking to roll out more ways for your members to engage. That means releasing features including login with Facebook, Twitter, etc., as well as a Network “Like” feature. It also means continuing to improve your Leaderboards.

Here are a few next steps we have in mind for Leaderboards:

  • Take your Leaderboards anywhere with RSS
  • Customize your Leaderboards pages with text boxes
  • Introduce the ability to drag-and-drop Leaderboards into place on your landing page.
  • Enrich the engagement system by rolling out a “Like” button

After you take your Leaderboards out for a spin, let us know if there are some improvements or new features you’d love to see added.

Add Blog Posts to Ning Networks From 3rd-Party Apps

metaweblog

We’re extremely excited to announce our support for the MetaWeblog API across all Ning Networks. This new enhancement will allow members of Ning Networks to compose and edit blog posts from popular 3rd-party applications.

Here are a few suggested applications across multiple platforms:

PC: Windows Live Writer
Mac: MarsEdit
Browser Extension: ScribeFire
Alternate Browser: Flock

If you’re looking for other options, WordPress (which also supports the MetaWeblog API) has a comprehensive list of blogging apps (note that not all of these have been tested with Ning, but it’s a good starting point).

Getting started is easy. When the application prompts you to set up your blog, simply enter your blog’s name (you can enter whatever you’d like) and the following for the URL: http://NAME.NING.COM/profiles/blog/list (replacing “NAME.NING.COM” with the Ning Network’s URL). Once prompted, log in with your e-mail address and password for that network. That’s it!

This is the first of several 3rd-party integrations coming down the pike, so stay tuned. In addition, we’re currently holding a private beta for our own new APIs. If you’re a Ning Pro Network Creator interested in developing a custom mobile, desktop or sync-style application for your network, please feel free to apply for an invitation.

Vote for Ning’s SXSW Panels

sxsw_voting

Heading to Austin next year for the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference? We’ve submitted three panels for consideration, and would love your votes to help get them on the official schedule!

Panel #1: Evangelize Your Community Base with the Social Web

Description: Everyone sees the value of social media, but they don’t know how to fully realize it. They know how to scale their members and/or fans rapidly to amazing numbers, but then what… how do you take a fan and make them a brand evangelist, how do you tap into true influencers to amplify your cause, how do you continue building your audience between the episodes, or beyond the premiere? Read more…

Panel #2: Using Online Tools to Engage the Music Community (Boring Headline = Hot Topic)

Description: Ning has been leveraged by music acts across the world to develop and energize their fan base. Based on the Ning Platform and the next generation of social technologies, musicians have successfully brought fans into the process of creating and distributing content, making fans the key drivers of the band’s success. This dual presentation, featuring musicians and Ning representatives, will delve into best practices and provide an in-depth look at what’s next for artists and their fans in social media. Read more…

Panel #3: How We Design: Small Teams, Big Products

Description: Products. We love them. We make them. We work on them every day. But the product design process is full of challenges. Maybe you’re trying to maintain consistency across an impossibly huge product. Maybe you’re in a position where you have to wear multiple hats to take an idea from concept to execution. Or maybe you’re driving and defending the visual identity of your company. No matter what, as a designer you’re always looking to solve big problems. This panel of designers will share the tips and tricks you need to alleviate your design headaches. Read more…

Please take a moment to register and vote for Evangelize Your Community Base with the Social Web, Using Online Tools to Engage the Music Community and How We Design: Small Teams, Big Products . Thanks!

Language Filter Live

The Language Filter is now live! This feature enables you to filter out offensive or otherwise prohibited words from content on your Ning Network. Many of you have requested this feature to help you more efficiently moderate your networks, as well as increase the value of your network traffic to advertisers.

The Language Filter is an opt-in feature available on Ning Pro. The feature comes with a default set of offensive words to filter, but the set of filtered words is customizable and completely controlled by you, the Network Creator.

The feature is easy to set up. Simply go to your My Network page and select Content > Controls in the left navigation.

LanguageFilter

Enable this feature by checking the “Enable Language Filtering” checkbox in the Language Filter section. In the text area below, you can choose to keep the default set of words that are shown or enter the words (separated by spaces) you would like to filter on your network. Once you save the changes, your Ning Network will start filtering these words so that only the first letter of each word is shown and the rest are replaced with (*). So if you entered “swear” it will show up as “s****”. Words are filtered when the page is being prepared for display to the user.

You also have the option to disable this feature by simply un-checking Enable Language Filtering check box. This allows you to easily disable the feature without having to enter the entire list of words to filter in the text area again.

If you currently subscribe to the Ning Mini or Plus plans, you can unlock this feature by upgrading to Ning Pro.