Monthly Archives: August 2011

Ning in the education department: The writing’s on the blackboard

As educators and students head back to school, we wanted to highlight a few ways Ning is used in the classroom as an e-learning tool. The goal with any community is to foster and drive conversation and learning, in meaningful and engaging ways, bridging the online conversations with the real world ones happening in the classroom.

We’ve heard that students and teachers really like the social aspects of services like Facebook, yet want a separation from their Facebook identity when it comes to the classroom and learning. The beauty with a Ning Network is that every student (and teacher) has their own profile page, showing their Latest Activity and content posted, blogs and discussions within the Ning Network. The profile is specific to the community, separate from their online identity elsewhere and is a safe way to share within the comforts of their Ning Network. Ning Creators can add profile questions that students can answer – helping students get to know each other.

Since the layout and features used is totally customizable, posting a course syllabus or weekly assignments on the Main page, which all members see upon signing in, is an easy way to disseminate and share information with students.

A discussion forum using a media-rich embed from SoundCloud to listen to music

As we highlighted in the Ning POV, Forums is our most popular feature, and offers educators a great deal of flexibility in terms of how to structure the conversations for classes, lectures and sections. We’ve seen specific discussions based on readings or assignments, and we’ve seen students create their own discussion topics based on general themes and topics, allowing them to dive into threaded or chronological debates with peers, sharing various points of view, and bringing that conversation along with them into the classroom. Discussion starters and anyone responding can embed media-rich content such as YouTube videos, podcasts, music, images, and links to cited sources across the web.

We recently came across a Ning Network for art classes at Yarmouth High School in Maine. Students are using the community to upload their artwork, turn in assignments and cross-share their work with students in China. The end result is a repository of student work, open discussions, and transnational learning:

Ning summer internship report

At Ning, we’re laser-focused on delivering a product our customers love, and investing in the long-term success of the company. With just over 100 full-time employees at Ning, all of us are rolling up our sleeves, in turn wearing multiple hats to conquer projects and product releases, further developing the Ning Platform and supporting the millions of people using Ning daily.

Despite the blood and sweat put into building a platform tasked with making the web a more social and unique place, it takes more than just our full-time employees to get the job done – and we have our interns (aptly called ‘Ningterns’) to thank for stepping in with helping us meet and exceed our company and product goals. This summer, 12 Ningterns joined us in our Palo Alto headquarters, contributing to teams across the company including design, marketing, product development and engineering.

To all of our Summer 2011 interns – Ab, Mark, Ming Han, Florence, Kat, Pratik, Adrian, Leslie, Stanley, Answer, Cole and Nicholas – thanks for bringing your game faces, showing us your excitement for the product and enthusiasm for dominating the projects we needed your help with finishing up – you guys rock!

As our Ningterns head back to school over the next few weeks, we’re also gearing up to recruit Ning’s Summer 2012 intern class and reach out to recent graduates. We’ll be heading to colleges and universities across the country and we’re looking for bright students and new graduates wanting to make an impact from day one during their time at Ning. Interested in being part of the action at Ning HQ? We’d love to hear from you. Get started at join.ning.com.


Photos by Summer 2011 Ningterns, Stanley and Answer

Ning POV: How Custom Social Communities Can Change the World

There are over 90,000 social websites on Ning worldwide. As a social platform that integrates with major social tools, Ning is in a unique position to observe patterns across the entire social ecosystem.

The new Ning Point of View (POV) Report examines trends in community engagement across the ever-changing social ecosystem that all inspired organizations and businesses can apply to spark change with as few as 20 people.

How marketers can better leverage social media and community to create strong brand advocates

In this episode of the Marketing Tech Blog Show, Anne Driscoll of Ning talks about how marketers can better leverage social media and community to create strong brand advocates. Tune in to learn:

  • How marketing in the social media realm is changing
  • How to make social media produce results for your business
  • Where could marketers find inspirations
  • What’s next in social media

South By Southwest – Vote to see Ning at SXSW 2012!

We’ve been busy at Ning HQ over the past year! And we’d love to chat at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2012 about what we’ve learned in (re)-building Ning as a product and company, and lend our voice for what’s happening in the ever-changing social ecosystem.

We’ve proposed the following panels:

To see us at SXSW, vote for us! Once you sign in to the SXSW PanelPicker, vote away by September 2 and maybe we’ll see you in Austin in 2012! For a recap of SXSW 2011, check out the Ning social site, The Unofficial SXSW Insider’s Guide. Yeehaw!

The Unofficial SXSW Insider's Guide

Language Settings for Groups, now on Ning!

Do your members speak multiple languages? Make them feel right at home with a new feature now on your Ning Network: Language Settings for Groups.

With Language Settings for Groups, group creators and admins can choose the language for particular groups on the “Edit Group” page, and all parts of the group’s interface will appear in that language. When participating in a group with its language set to French, for example, phrases like “Started by” or action links like “Favorite” will be translated to “Créé par” and “Favori.” Even better: All email notifications received from participating in the group will be in French, too.

This is perfect for language-orientated groups on your Ning Network, like the French-speaking group on Ning Creators. Members already post in French, but they previously were forced to use an English interface. With this new option, they’ll have a much more native and comfortable experience within the group.

Even better, the portions of the user interface that are part of your Ning Network as a whole — the footer, your tabs, the right column — will remain untouched in your network’s default language. Member-generated content won’t change either, remaining in whatever language it was posted in.

Admin Experience

Network Creators and admins are responsible for their Ning Networks, and they often carefully review new posts throughout their communities. Of course, it could be confusing to try to manage a group if the management tools are in another language. Not everyone might know, for example, that “Supprimer” is the button to click to delete a French group.

To maintain a great and consistent experience, Network Creators or administrators will see all groups in the native network language. Additionally, they will see an informational banner at the top of the group telling them what language the group is using, and allowing Network Creators and administrators to see the group in the custom language, if they wish.

Network Creators and admins can click “View sample” to see the group in the custom language if they want to check out how the group appears to its members. A group’s language can be changed at any time from the group’s Options tab, where all editing of groups is normally done.

Because this feature is experimental and a significant change to the way groups, languages and emails work, we’ve launched it via Ning Labs. That’s the page on your Dashboard where you can activate experimental features as we prepare them for launch. You can toggle this feature on or off via Ning Labs, but it’s off by default.

We’d love your feedback on this new product. We hope this feature will lay the groundwork to eventually providing a language setting at the member level, giving an even better experience for your international and foreign-speaking members. Merci!

Quality Counts When it Comes to Your Company and Community Definition

Sharing content like photos, videos, blog posts, reviews and physical location has become mainstream for the vast majority of people on the web—it’s now instinctual. And while it’s easy to post, at times this content can lack relevancy or context, and only scratches the surface, not really diving into the nitty-gritty details.

Adding to this, for people not on the social sharing up-and-up, all of this chatter can be a bit intimidating or just not for them. In short, there’s more to the web than funny cat videos and planking photos (though those are awesome too). At the same time, companies of all sizes are clamoring to establish themselves online, finding out how to support their brand loyalists in ways uncharted a mere decade ago.

Kreg Jig Owners CommunityWe’ve been following the Kreg Jig Owners Community, a Ning Network for owners of Kreg woodworking tools. Boasting 30,000+ members, customers come to the community to share their excitement for woodworking and the amazing things they’re creating with their Kreg tools. The community doubles as a repository for project ideas, plus tips and tricks for inspiring and jumpstarting the creativity for Kreg customers. We recently spoke with Kreg Jig Ning Creator, Derek Balsley. For Balsley, the key to getting people on the community has been the integration of the Kreg Jig Owners Community into their offline advertising and marketing programs:

“When somebody purchases a Kreg Jig, the first thing they see is ‘Join our community, get free project plans, check out all the projects everyone else who owns a Kreg Jig is building.’ It’s really tying together the traditional media with the web,” said Balsley.

The results: a business that has transitioned passive engagement through its store to an active and participatory community online and available worldwide. Balsley recently spoke at the 140 Character Conference, highlighting the ways their customers, now-community members, use Kreg Jig as the place to share quality and rich content, evangelizing the product through their woodworking successes.

Google +1 Share Button: Now on Your Ning Network! More Controls Over Sharing



Do your Facebook and Twitter sharing buttons need some company? Now, add Google’s “+1″ share buttons to every piece of content on your Ning Network, with a single click. Google’s +1 buttons “let people who love your content recommend it on Google search,” and share it on your stream with the new Google+ network. Just as with Network Like and Facebook Like, you can add a Google +1 button to:

  • Blogs
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Events
  • Discussions
  • Groups
  • Pages
  • Profiles

We’ve left this new button defaulted off, so to enable it, head to the updated “Share Links” settings page, in the “Features” section of your Dashboard. Once on the page, you’ll see a new Google +1 checkbox.

Note that this will be available to public Ning Networks. (Google’s +1 only works with public pages.)

Check it, and you’re all set!

While on this page, also check out the new “Share Links” section. These controls used to be on the Member Controls page. We’ve moved them to the “Share Links” page to allow you to manage all of the sharing/liking buttons in one place; you can now turn share links on and off per feature. Just click the “Customize Share Links by feature” link, and you’ll be able to disable share links on profiles, while leaving them on for blog posts, for example.

Once you’ve enabled the Google +1 button, your members can recommend your content to their friends searching the web. Additionally, if they’re sharing their +1s publicly, the content they’ve +1′d will appear in Google+ and to their Circles and +1 list.

Support for Google +1 also syncs with the algorithm for Leaderboards. It’s another great way to share content, find new members and drive engagement on your Ning Network!

London Protest – Help is in Your Neighbourhood

I was curious to see how London-based communities are using Ning to connect and learn about the violence erupting out of the Tottenham riots in London, and how they’re also disseminating information. I came across 2 such Ning Networks: W14 and Beckenham Town .us, both London borough communities.

Though not surprising, based on the Latest Activity, I saw a spike in the number of people joining both of these communities in the past few days. But the membership increase and this demonstration in London does not alone account for why people are clamoring to join these Ning Networks now. This got me thinking about why people are coming to these communities in the first place, feeling the need to connect with their borough neighbors in this time of crisis.

Having lived in the London borough of Islington during college, I had an overwhelming sense of trust and immediate comfort whenever I was in my “neighbourhood” – even on my first jet-lagged morning in London. Whether in my corner pub, The Eagle, getting groceries from Budgens or Tesco, or walking to the tube stop closest to my flat, I often forgot that I was but 1 person amidst an urban population of more than 12 million.

In my role at Ning, what I’ve heard many times from Ning Creators and community members is that they have the same overwhelming sense of trust and a desire to share with people impacted in the same ways that they are – whatever the influence – their Ning communities transform into neighborhoods much like the ones we call home in the real world. This immediate sense of trust and authenticity are the best qualities I see born out of such Ning communities.

Tragedies aside, the London protest presents an exemplary reason why communities, whether based on geographic location, common interests, religious or political views, health concerns, or professional endeavors, are where we naturally gravitate toward as the source for information, help, support and camaraderie during times of need.

August 9 Latest Activity on W14 (http://w14london.ning.com):
W14 (http://w14london.ning.com) screenshot

August 9 Latest Activity on Beckenham Town .us (http://www.beckenhamtown.us):
Beckenham Town .us (http://www.beckenhamtown.us) screenshot

We’re Ustreaming Our Ning Tech Talk Now!

Update at 9:30 PM on August 3, 2011: This meetup has wrapped up! You can check out Luke’s Ning Tech Talk on our Ustream channel! Thanks to everyone who tuned in live!

We’re Ustreaming Luke Wroblewski’s Ning Tech Talk on Mobile First from Ning HQ right now! Luke will start presenting around 6:30 PM (Pacific).

Check out our Ning Tech Talk live by going to Ning Creators. Click the Ustream link on the left-hand side, and you’ll have a front-row seat to Luke’s Ning Tech Talk. You can integrate your own Ustream channel directly into your Ning Network using our recently announced Ning Extention for Ustream!