Monthly Archives: April 2011

Announcing Ning Design Competition Finalists

We’re delighted to see the amount of enthusiasm on the Ning Design Competition. Not only did we receive far more entries than we expected, the submissions showed a huge variety with interesting elements to bring community together and re-imagined the possibilities for social website design.

It was certainly a difficult process but after much consideration, we’re pleased to announce the top 12 finalists for the Ning Design Competition to compete for the following prizes:

1st Place: $10,000 + trip to NYC for dinner with competition judges + one-year Ning Pro subscription
2nd Place: $1,000 + 27″ Apple Cinema Display + trip to NYC for dinner with competition judges + one-year Ning Pro subscription
3rd Place: $1,000 + 27″ Apple Cinema Display + trip to NYC for dinner with competition judges + one-year Ning Pro subscription
Community Favorite Award: Trip to NYC for dinner with competition judges + one-year Ning Pro subscription

While our fantastic panel of world-class designers will decide who the top three winners will be, the theme that receives the most Facebook likes and tweets will win the Community Favorite Award. Check it out and vote for your favorite before May 10:

Blue Lightning by Johannes Kolbe

Breezy Day by Kristy Barkan

Cusper Club by Terris Kremer

Dark Overlord by Pete Golden

The Eights Wonder of the World by Brendan Falkowski (Gravity Department)

In Memoriam by Mario Benites

Kreem Theme by John Lee (Crackpixels)

Lettercase by Rory McCawl

Punchcard Posse by Ernie Hsiung (LYD Labs)

The Kiss by Darragh Flood

T-Rexxy by Brandon Babb

Vinyl Theme by John Lee (Crackpixels)

Ning Tech Talks: A Look Back & Looking Ahead

With over 90,000 customers worldwide, millions of pieces of content created daily, and billions of events handled each year, our slim team of about 100 employees relies on killer analytics tools to make sense of all the data and numbers. In our second Ning Tech Talk, Ning’s Pierre-Alexandre Meyer discusses Realtime Analytics and the systems we use to monitor the Ning Platform 24/7. If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, RSVP on our Meetup and we’ll you see tomorrow, Wednesday, April 27 at 6 PM at Ning HQ in downtown Palo Alto.

Just as before, we’ll be opening up the floor to let anyone share a technology topic of interest —Lightning Talks— just let us know when you RSVP!

We’ll have pizza, beer and other refreshments, so bring your appetite! Invite friends and colleagues, RSVP, and we’ll see you there!

6 – 6:30 PM: Free food and beer, mix and mingle, lightning talks
6:30 – 8 PM: Pierre-Alexandre Meyer presents Realtime Analytics at Ning, Q+A, more time to mingle

If you couldn’t make it to our first Ning Tech Talk with Brian McCallister on The Ning Content Store and its Architectural Evolution, you can check it out here:

From the Red Carpet to Your Produce Aisle

It’s always exciting to hear first-hand of our customers’ success both on and off the Ning Platform. We think about social websites on Ning as the hub for social branding and identity. This naturally lends itself to having a presence, or spokes, if you will, around the web and real world.

BlackTree TV positions itself as the world’s largest urban entertainment network by producing and posting high quality videos distributed across the web. They cover everything from red carpet interviews, celebrity one-on-ones, and frontline social commentary from artists and politicians alike. They decided to use Ning to have a website layering in community, monetization flexibility and a branded experience encompassing BlackTree TV’s entertainment focus.

Between BlackTree TV and their accompanying YouTube channel with 400+ million views, their success is nothing short of awesome! In a recent tweet by Tony Idem, BlackTree TV’s Community Manager, we learned about their new partnership with an in-store content provider. In short, the deal paves the way for BlackTree TV to bring the same great content from BlackTree TV to Walmart, Albertsons, Costco and 10,000 retail locations nationwide! They’re making moves to produce aisles near you – keep an eye out for BlackTree TV. Congrats to the BlackTree TV team!

Earth Day 2011: Banco do Planeta’s Commitment to Sustainability

Comunidade Banco do Planeta (Bank of the Planet Community) is a network operated by Bradesco, one of the big four banks in Brazil. This community powered by Ning showcases Bradesco’s ongoing commitment to environmental and financial sustainability. Unlike many banks, one of Bradesco’s core values is to give back to the communities they serve, helping their customers invest not only in funds or stocks, but also in their communities, Brazilian society, and—naturally—the planet. The network sponsors events related to green urban development, courses on environmental education, and social responsibility seminars for businesses. With over 19,000 members, the network’s members include environmental activists, representatives of the business community, and nonprofit organizations.

Groups on the network cater to a specific stakeholders interested in sustainability, including e-construction,  ecotourism, and green energy. The network also sponsors scholarships, prizes, and essay contests related to sustainability and environmental education, which serve to increase member engagement on Comunidade Banco do Planeta. Bradesco itself funds many of these prizes, and also uses its community network to coordinate collective projects alongside NGOs and the public sector. For Bradesco, their online community is an important way to engage with customers and exemplify their core values of sustainable finance, responsible management, and social investing in the broadest sense. Their online community serves as an interactive supplement to and the bank’s other community endeavors like the Bradesco Foundation, the Bradesco Sports and Education Program, and the Sustainable Amazon Foundation.

Comunidade Banco do Planeta is a wonderful example of how Ning enables organizations and activists all around the globe.

Feliz Dia da Terra! (Happy Earth Day!)

Congratulations to Ning’s Most Influential Creator of 2011

Actress/comedian, Amy Poehler, was named today by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world in 2011. In fact, she ranked fourth on that top 100 list, which included the likes of President Barack Obama, Oprah, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

We couldn’t be more proud to say that Amy and her team, Meredith Walker and Amy Miles, use Ning to help foster discussions that empower young women and provide a creative outlet for girls to express themselves in ways that are often silly, sometimes insightful, and always authentic. Their community, smartly titled Smart Girls at the Party, is centered around an online video series highlighting girls who are changing the world by being themselves. We first wrote about this site, back in June 2010, and since then, we’re pleased to share that the party is continuing to grow and has nearly 2,000 active members. You go girls!

Smart Girls at the Party powered by Ning

Now There’s More to Like!

Since adding the Like Feature to Ning Labs in February, we’ve studied closely how Ning Creators are using it on their social sites. What we’ve found is exciting: 12,000 Ning Creators have already replaced the Favorite and Rate features with the Like Button, and they are seeing great results. Here’s how this change has increased member engagement:

Engagement = Number of times content is Rated, Favorited, or Liked

We’re excited to report that later today, we will be taking the Like Feature out of Ning Labs.

We’ve spent the last several weeks making a series of improvements, including:

  • Like buttons for more features (Photos, Videos, Blogs, Events, Discussions, Groups, Pages, Profiles)
  • Feature-by-feature control to enable/disable a Like button
  • A revamped My Likes page that shows member Likes month-to-month over time.

Increase your engagement! Turn on the Like Button for your network now.

Haven’t turned it on yet? It’s easy. When you sign in later today, you’ll see a simple message that prompts you activate the Like Button. Choose which features you want to enable. You can make changes anytime, and we encourage you to experiment with different features to see what works best for you. We’ve set you up with the option to send a Broadcast Message to your members to let them know about this new feature (if you choose).

We’ve also updated the algorithm for Leaderboards to include Like Button activity. This ensures that the Leaderboards will reflect and surface the latest, greatest content and trends on your Ning Network.

Seesmic Desktop Update

We launched our Seesmic Desktop integration last fall, and it has since become one of Seemic’s most-downloaded plugins. To celebrate, we’re making it even better.

An updated version of the plugin is now available (current users will be prompted to update the next time you open the application).

With the new update, you can seamlessly view three new timeline attachments in Seesmic Desktop:

Photos

  • Contains the photo, the image title and the description
  • Attached to “New Photo” activity items and comments on photos

Blog Posts

  • Contains the post’s title and full content
  • Attached to “New Blog Post” activity items and comments on blog posts

Comments

  • View existing comments on activity items
  • Add new comments directly from timeline items

We hope you enjoy it!

Pencils of Promise: Effectively Spreading the Word Across Social Media Channels

Have you heard of Pencils of Promise? They’ve built up a very impressive, grassroots movement to build schools in developing parts of the world. They’re also training socially conscious young leaders to fan out, spread the word, and encourage people to take action at home and abroad. I sat down with one of the founders of PoP for a quick Q&A to find out how they’re using their Ning site, Professionals for PoP, as well as other social-media channels to further their excellent cause.

1. Let’s start with some introductions: Who are you, why did you guys start Pencils of Promise, and why did you choose Ning as the platform to build a community?

Hi, I’m Mimi. I like to say I’m the “Chief Pencil Sharpener.” PoP started with Adam Braun and his habit of giving away pencils to children in developing countries when he traveled the world. He saw how powerful the promise of education could be, and after I met him I wanted to help him on this journey and make sure each pencil was sharpened and ready to use. As the founding member and Director of Outreach, my responsibilities fall in the areas of fundraising, events, donor engagement, and corporate partnerships. My passion is finding unique ways for our professionals to get involved with our mission because one of the most important principles of PoP is that regardless of age, ability, or status you can be part of something that is impactive on a lasting scale. This year, we decided to launch a community site for our professionals to interact, inspire, and encourage one another to create social good through their involvement with PoP. We noticed that many supporters wanted to do something, but they needed a bit of guidance and wanted to connect with others who felt just as enthusiastic and passionate about the cause. Creating a community was also a great way to streamline our communication with the other social media platforms we use such as Twitter and Facebook.

2. What do you hope to accomplish from your community site?

Our goal is to connect users and give them a platform to lead and inspire. We hope to reach more members who are actively supporting the PoP movement. We’re trying to provide a place that doesn’t take up too much of anyone’s time but that also serves as a support system to help them combine their passion with PoP’s mission. It also helps to see examples of what everyone else is doing.

3. How are you using the wider social internet (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to promote your brand, and how is that tied into your Ning Network?

Anything that’s happening with our professionals, we want to cross promote it on our other channels. We also use the other platforms more for announcements to link it back to the community site so we can increase membership for first timers visiting or interested in joining PoP because they read a news flash on Twitter or Facebook.

4. Tell us a little more about how the social Web has helped you build Pencils of Promise and raise finds toward your programs around the world.

Pencils of Promise “the movement” started with us leveraging Facebook and our friends, family, and co-workers to pass the word along. It was free and the easiest way for us to reach a mass group. Then, Twitter came along, which helped us to more keep people in the loop and have personal conversations with our supporters, especially young supporters. It was like free customer service! It’s a great way for us to ask people to join campaigns, come to events, or volunteer with us. This connects supporters who then can maybe turn into donors. It’s relationship management. We use social media to show not only what we do but who we are as a brand — it gives us personality!

5. Ideally, where would you like to see this network be 6-12 months from today? Ultimately, why is building a community around this brand so important to you?

The network should be user-driven completely! It should be creative and an example of how people from all over the world can come together for purpose. I would also like to say it’s the factory that creates leaders who are global citizens caring to create more access to education!

6. Do you have any tips, ideas, or suggestions for others who are looking to leverage social technologies to help change the world?

Branding. Don’t just tell people what you do and expect them to respond. You have to give them the people behind the brand — what you feel, believe in, and are passionate about. Communicate that to the people so they can connect with you, and use the social-media platform to help facilitate those connections. Be consistent and committed to your social-media profile.

7. Tell us about any exciting upcoming campaigns you’re launching in the next couple of months.

Currently, we have a few activities you can get involved in: The PoP Video Contest where you can win two round-trip tickets with our PoP Team to visit our schools in Guatemala. Then, our Professionals for PoP Campaign of the Month is Plan a Happy Hour. Mid- to late-April we’re launching Schools for All, where we ask our youth to join the national fundraising challenge to have a chance for Justin Bieber visit your school with Adam Braun!

Introducing Ning Tech Talks meetups!

We’re starting a new meetup called Ning Tech Talks! It’s a technology event series focused on discussing the technological underpinnings powering the web. Key engineers and gurus from Ning and other tech companies will keynote each meetup, with time for attendees to mix and mingle throughout the meetup over pizza and beer. Anyone attending can also do a short 5-minute presentation (lightning talk) on anything they’re working on or would like to discuss. Our first meetup is tomorrow, April 6 at 6 PM (Pacific) at Ning HQ in downtown Palo Alto. RSVP and join our meetup group here! Here’s the schedule tomorrow:

6 – 6:30 PM: Free food and beer, mix and mingle, lightning talks
6:30 – 8 PM: Brian McCallister presenting Ning’s experience in building a scalable content store, Q+A, more time to mingle

For tomorrow’s meetup, we have our very own Brian McCallister presenting his experience in building a scalable content store. Since Ning’s inception, Brian has been leading the charge in database architecture, and he’ll be discussing its evolution and his work on it. Each iteration of the content store has created challenges and Brian has been at the forefront of making these changes happen!

As mentioned, we’ll be opening up the floor to let anyone share a topic they’re particularly excited about — just let us know what you’ll be discussing when you RSVP!

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday! Bring an appetite and we encourage you to invite friends and colleagues — just ask them to RSVP too! If you can’t make this first meetup, join our group and stay tuned for upcoming Ning Tech Talks.

Connecting Teens Through Poetry on Ning

It’s been a while since I was a teen (sigh), but I still remember it was a time when everything suddenly became a lot more complex. It was the time when I began the journey to explore who I was and to make sense out of the confusing world (does it ever end?). Asserting my voice was particularly hard with pressure from peers and limitless expectations from parents.

For teenagers, there’s nothing more important than having a place where they feel they’re being accepted unconditionally; a safe platform where they can express their real emotions. Alex Trivas, an English teacher at the Brentwood School in L.A. recently put together a social site on Ning called One Billion Poets with the goal to provide just that. Why is it called One Billion Poets? There are one billion teenagers around the world, and Alex sees that as one billion potential poets who can “inspire and shape the world through their writing.”

While every teenager is different (everyone comes from different backgrounds on many levels), they face many of the same challenges and share many of the same dreams. Alex describes his vision of One Billion Poets on his Ning site:

Teenagers are often labeled as disaffected, disgruntled, and disengaged. However, we see numerous teens around the world striving to effect positive change. And frankly, if you are feeling a bit disaffected, that’s okay too. The world is complex and tough, and it can be doubly so for teens. One elixir for the disillusionment and frustrations we face is the potency of poetry. Focusing on the four following prompts: Where I’m From, What I Carry, Why I Laugh, and What I Wish, One Billion Poets invites all aspiring poets to connect with each other and to share and reflect on each other’s poems. We hope you will all see that although we certainly come from very diverse backgrounds — sometimes extraordinarily different — we all share many of the same dreams, burdens, loves, hopes, and emotions. Whether you live in Tunisia or Detroit, Moscow or Mexico City, we believe you all have something salient and beautiful to say about the teenage experience in the 21st century.

Teenagers from around the world indeed see the connection with one another through poetry. Since its launch in March, there are already people across 14 countries and 27 states in the U.S. visiting this site. And the word is spreading among students, teachers, and parents.

Big cheers to One Billion Poets for doing important work for teenagers everywhere! Reading their heartfelt poetry reminds me how important it was when I was a teen to have a community of people who could help me figure out Where I’m From, What I Carry, Why I Laugh, and What I Wish.

Know a teenager who is still figuring these big questions out? They can get the word out with One Billion Poets.