Monthly Archives: November 2011

Platform-wide scheduled maintenance this Friday, December 2

We will be performing maintenance on the Ning Platform this coming Friday, December 2, from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. (midnight) Pacific Time. During this time, all Ning Networks will be unavailable for 2 hours.

We’re proud to have been able to realize a consistently high uptime over the past year. To keep this consistent record high, we need to perform some crucial upgrades to hardware, systems and databases. We want to ensure your Ning Network stays online and speedy for the next year and beyond.

During this time:

  • Your Ning Network will display a maintenance page matching your current theme customization to let your members know that your community is temporarily unavailable.
  • We will update the Ning Status Blog when this maintenance begins and ends.
  • We’ll also provide ongoing updates during this maintenance period on the Ning Status Blog and on our @Ning Twitter account.
  • The Creators Network will also be down for maintenance. We will update on Creators when all is complete.

We recommend advising your members of this downtime in advance via a broadcast message and/or other notices on your Main page. We’ve put together some boilerplate language you can use for messaging by simply copying and pasting. Or, tailor it for your community:

    • Formal: We will be performing maintenance on [network_name] this Friday, December 2, from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. (midnight) Pacific Time. During this time, [network_name] will be unavailable. We hope this won’t be too much of an inconvenience as we work to perform some necessary upgrades.
    • Informal: Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up that we need to perform some simple but necessary maintenance on [network_name] this coming Friday, December 2. We’ll need to take the site down from 10-midnight (Pacific). During these 2 hours, we’ll simply show a message asking folks to check back later. Thanks in advance for your patience while we tune up the site!

We know that maintenance like this can be an inconvenience, and we appreciate your patience while we perform it!

A Very Mogwee Thanksgiving

As people in the United States prepare to spend time with their families for Thanksgiving, Mogwee is here to help coordinate the hustle and bustle. Here are a few ways to make good use of Mogwee this week:

  • Make a family Hangout to coordinate plans, share shopping lists and post real-time photos with relatives that can’t make it to the feast.
  • Picking people up? Make things easier with the “Share a Location” feature.
  • Can’t decide what side dishes to serve? Make a quick poll to settle things.
  • Get everyone in the spirit by sharing some classic Thanksgiving-themed YouTube videos. Here’s one to get you started.

Mogwee is free, and you can get started in seconds using your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Android device or the Web. Have a great holiday!

A Ning community to occupy, share & connect – quickly

At Ning, we’ve long believed in providing a platform enabling people to create communities for the things most important to them; allowing you to share and connect freely, with anyone. What’s blossomed has been Ning Networks whose topics and foci run the gamut, and as a Ning employee I think it’s been incredibly awesome to see so many communities grow and flourish.

Occupy Cal (Nov 15), photo by Daniel Parks

Occupy Cal (Nov 15), photo by Daniel Parks

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Occupy protests happening around the world. The Occupy movement is making the headline news, while student-captured footage of the UC Davis pepper spray incident has had millions of views and shares on YouTube and Facebook (along with many tongue-in-cheek memes). People are sharing their personal stories of economic and career hardship, and governments are being asked to take responsibility and help their people. A longtime muted 99% is now being heard worldwide through these protests and the sharing of information online.

In the past, we’ve highlighted how people discover and find Ning communities in both times of joy and hardship or uncertainty. Given what’s been happening, an Occupy Wall Street YouTube video linking to the Ning Network, Occupy America Social Network, caught our attention. The community is primarily using the Ning Platform to share information through the Blog and Video features, both of which are prominently highlighted on the community’s homepage. Posts and uploads began at the end of September and according to Site Meter, there are now over 140 blog posts and 170 videos relating to the movement from occupiers around the world, attracting about 1,400 visitors to the site daily.

Topicality aside, the Occupy America Social Network gets at what we’re all about – it’s a prime example of how easily the Ning Platform can be used as a “pop-up shop” of sorts for quickly organizing people through online community. Given a passionate base of supporters, we can’t wait to see where the Occupy America Social Network goes from here.

What is your community standing up for, and how is the Ning Platform giving you a voice? Let us know in the comments.

Content creation by weaving in social conversations

Last week, Ning was mentioned in Marty Weintraub’s Search Engine Land article, Content Marketing Essentials: Tactical Advice From A To Z. His post highlights ways marketers and businesses can develop a strategy through crafting quality written and creative content for their presence online, further building their brand. Interestingly, many of the steps Marty highlights appeal to the greater audience of Ning’s community organizers and those looking to weave social conversations in their content and inspire action online.

While Marty buckets Ning alongside blogging services like WordPress, he differentiates Ning as a platform underpinning the social endeavors many businesses, organizations and people aspire to establish and support within their website.

The Ning Platform enables communities to easily form and blossom online, allowing the conversation to grow organically by attracting people to the things they care most about; we see many examples underlining the various conversations and connections happening through Ning. For instance, seeking advice about how to cope with a diabetes diagnosis? The Ning Network TuDiabetes provides the outlet and a safe place to share your story and learn from others. Conversely, teeming with excitement over the movie premier of Twilight Breaking Dawn and looking for exclusive interviews with Twilight cast members? The Twilight Saga is the Ning community to hear the latest gossip or post your predictions for the final movie.

What’s happening on your Ning Network or how you are contributing to communities you’ve joined?

How Educators Use Social Media to Change the Learning Paradigm

It’s been widely reported that America is facing an education crisis. Bleak numbers indicate that more than three out of ten students don’t graduate high school. Funding cuts, overcrowded classrooms and a shortage of teachers impact this even further.

To positively affect education and learning, educators and administrators are using social in many forms. Lesson plans and projects that worked 20 years ago are being rethought, taking into account a different and more connected audience of students today. Understanding the way digital content can help students in the classroom, and how students are using it to learn, is at the heart of fostering a new style of education.

At Ning, we see how forward-thinking educators are taking the lead to combat this trend. Here are four innovative ways they adopt the power of social to empower students to succeed:

Transform Passive One-Way Teaching to Two-Way Collaboration

Education is more than simply absorbing information. It’s about asking questions, challenging the status quo, and empowering students to make informed decisions and draw conclusions. Social platforms are tools to support the learning ecosystem; it’s a technology that turns a one-way dialogue into multi-point conversations, facilitating actionable collaboration.

As computers and technology have become more and more prevalent, Chad Bruns, a history and athletics public school teacher in Iowa, has sought out ways to use Ning’s technology to engage and excite his students. Ultimately, Chad chose Ning because it was safe and easy, taking the concept of social networking and applying it to an online community for his students. Students use their profile page on the Mr. Bruns 360 Ning community as an “e-portfolio,” creating an academic repository of their online work. Not only is it a place for the teacher to post homework assignments and syllabi, the community becomes a destination for students to share their viewpoints and grow with one another.

Chad also notes that U.S. schoolchildren are now competing with students worldwide, “In this global marketplace, kids have to be able to have specific skills. I know they’re going to leave my classroom knowing how to research well, which they can use in all aspects of life. They know how to speak well— and now have blogging and writing skills. We’re fostering all these essential skills through Ning to help them succeed in the real world.”

The learning process no longer ends with the 3:00 p.m. school bell; there is a constant ebb and flow of material being absorbed inside and out of the classroom.

Empowering Teachers to Make Curriculum Relevant for Tomorrow

To help students succeed, our curriculum must be relevant for tomorrow. Students need to be prepared for life beyond the academic setting and ready to embrace post-graduate and working lives. To create a curriculum that’s truly forward-looking, teachers need to have the time and space to do research, get inspirations, and share best practices – a luxury that many can’t afford.

One of the biggest benefits of a custom social community is that teachers who share the same passion can easily connect in an open and supportive environment. Conversations and idea sharing extend beyond the boundaries of four walls. On Ning, we are seeing educators connecting with each other, in turn finding the right recipe for integrating new technologies in classroom teaching. A great example is iPads in Education – a place where Ning Creator Sam Gliksman and other educators are laser-focused on exploring the ways the iPad and new technologies can integrate in the classroom. They ask how this technology can best be used to enrich the lives of students, while preparing them for tomorrow. Teachers do this through the community’s bevy of discussion forums, offering tips and best practices, and detailing implementation plans to centerpiece iPad in the classroom to ready students for success today and in the future.

Sam highlights that education is no longer passive, and that students and teachers alike need to be flexible to relearn, at anytime. His community is taking advantage of the opportunity for educators to help out each other by sharing ways to use mobile technology in the classroom to drive student success.

Build a Support and Professional Development System for Teachers

As education reform develops into a twenty-first century curriculum, teachers and school administrators are coming together as members of online communities to nurture a professional support system. By joining the conversation through education-focused Ning communities, teachers are no longer making the education journey solo.

Classroom 2.0 is one such community, attracting a worldwide teaching audience. There, educators become part of the digital dialog, enabling them to share and learn in their teaching success with educators from around the world. Because the conversation is happening within a safe space independent of any specific education entity, the topics covered are limitless, bypassing the control of academic institutions, governing bodies or bureaucracy. Members of Classroom 2.0 act as valuable resources to help guide other educators along pathways of successful teaching methodologies. According to Ning Creator Steve Hargadon, Classroom 2.0’s use of Ning has given teachers previously without a voice an opportunity to be part of the conversation:

“Ning opens the door to all kinds of things that teachers want to do. The word here is passion – teachers are a caring community. They’re people who care about others, getting into education largely because they wanted to make a difference. And for many of them, they had to abandon those passions. They were bound by so many constraints in their lives, that they couldn’t bring themselves to their job. So all of a sudden, Ning and other social media tools provided teachers with an outlet for this passion. Teachers contribute to Classroom 2.0 because they care. This is a huge release of purpose, and purpose-driven passion for educators wanting to make a difference. Ning and Classroom 2.0 give them a voice.”

Give Guidance to Underprivileged Students to Succeed

One purpose of education is to level the playing field, giving all students equal access to learning and content, no matter a student’s background—be it racial, socioeconomic, disability or upbringing. The key is finding a platform that enables educators to help students learn in a dynamic and open environment, and creates opportunities for students to help their peers.

Carlos Jimenez and Zoomz give students an avenue to find the academic support they need and encourage students to become the first generation in their family to attend college. The organization uses Ning to put middle and high school students in touch with recent first-generation college students and graduates, promoting a college-bound culture and a community lending itself to students seeking higher education opportunities after high school. These role model-college students set a positive example for underprivileged youths to follow, counterbalancing the many negative influencers they may encounter as they grow up. Through this trusting social community, children learn how to deal with stress, raise expectations, succeed academically and take control of their destiny.

As acclaimed education reform programs like Teach for America gain more and more traction around the world, educators are also sharing their successes with one another to help students reach academic success. Ning community Teach for All Synergies brings together worldwide active corps members and alumni of the education reform program, Teach For All. According to online organizer, Jacob Kestner, it’s a way for someone in a rural part of Lebanon to benefit from the expertise of teachers in the US/UK. What’s come out of the community is more than just publishing content or best practices – it forges relationships and opens the door to worldwide education success.

In the classroom, education is being reinvented to take advantage of new technologies, online mediums and web applications. For many educators, it takes their own initiative to get the ball rolling – and at Ning, we applaud the educators who have already begun revolutionizing the ways students learn and succeed. We look forward to supporting many more teachers, students and classrooms as these practices are adopted on a wider scale.

Building a community for our veterans

At Ning, we’re all about community. If you’re a current Ning Creator, you’ve probably picked up on this little point of pride; if you’re checking us out for the first time, we’re glad you’re here to learn more!

The Ning Platform is only as interesting and impactful as the 100,000 communities and millions of community members using the service daily. To this point, we see communities ranging a multitude of businesses interests, professions, geographies, expertise, hobbies, life-long connections, lifestyles… you name it – and this is exactly what we love to see happening with Ning.

In honor of Veterans Day and the millions of men and women serving our country, we wanted to bring to light a few veteran Ning communities. Two years ago, we first highlighted IAVA’s Community of Veterans, a private Ning community focused on serving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Last year, we invited IAVA’s Community Manager, Jason Hasman, to Ning HQ. Jason, an Iraq veteran, is responsible for maintaining and growing Community of Veterans and we asked him how IAVA has turned into such a special and impactful community for veterans back from deployment:

While Veterans all have one thing in common through protecting and serving their country, we see Ning communities bubbling up to support and bring together segments of veteran populations. It’s been quite the year for the US military, with one issue being especially top of mind: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Though the policy has been repealed, burgeoning support and pride for LGBT civil servants and veterans is the focus for the Ning Network DOD Federal Globe.

Though Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell made national news, camaraderie and bonds formed by veterans leaning on the support of their peers extends beyond this deeply debated topic. For UW Vets for Vets, the Ning community forms the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chapter of the national organization, Student Veterans of America. Vets for Vets is a place for student veterans attending UW-Wisconsin to come together, learn about their benefits and support activities, and raise awareness amongst the greater UW-Wisconsin student population about student veterans’ experiences. The Ning community is open to all UW-Madison students, facilitating a place to open the lines of communication between active duty veterans, veterans and student-civilians.

Veterans and their families may face many challenges while reintegrating back into civilian life. The good news is that there are many services and communities to help soften this landing. Military to Medicine is a Ning community dedicated to bringing healthcare training and career opportunities to military families. The organization supports veterans, wounded veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, other service members and military spouses. The community includes new job openings and resources for veterans looking for guidance and support during their adjustment.

In the same vein, Lone Star Veterans Association is a community dedicated to supporting post 9/11 veterans and their families through “direction communications, advocacy, employment assistance, mentoring, service and social programming.” As the mentoring and networking arm of Houston’s Returning Veteran Initiative, the Ning community “provides the open support system and social outlets for service members transitioning back into civilian life through programs, events and peer mentoring.”

On the lighter side of things, military Ning communities also form around civilian interests. Military Sea Hawkers serves as the military chapter of the official booster club of the Seattle Seahawks, giving active service members and veterans a place to celebrate their favorite football team and root on the Sea Hawks with their comrades.

We’re truly glad to see these wonderful bonds and communities coming to fruition through Ning; thank you to all active service men and women and veterans for showing us how your camaraderie creates community.

Meet the All-New Mogwee!

We’re excited to announce a series of feature updates and improvements to Mogwee, Ning’s free mobile communication and collaboration service available for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android and Web. Mogwee is a fun way to easily create “Hangouts” and stay connected with friends, family, co-workers, study groups and more, no matter where you are.

Join in seconds, easily invite friends, express yourself with a custom theme, then start enjoying our features. Some highlights:

Joining and Inviting

  • Join Mogwee effortlessly using your Facebook account
  • Easily invite lots of friends at once using Facebook, SMS or email

Interface

  • Enjoy an improved interface, including the ability to choose custom themes
  • Follow conversations more easily with threaded replies (just tap on a message to reply directly)
  • On an iPad? Enjoy an updated iPad-specific interface

Features

  • Share real-time photos from events
  • Share your location (or any location) with a Hangout (iOS and Android)
  • Get Hangout feedback on any topic with easy-to-create polls
  • Browse and search YouTube directly within Mogwee to share videos with the Hangout (iOS and Android)
  • Send fun animated gifts and actions, including sharks, crickets and Kung Fu squirrels
  • Find out the answer to an all-important question: who is the Hangout’s Sheep Tennis champion?

Get started by downloading Mogwee for iOS or Mogwee for Android. Don’t have one of those devices, or want to use Mogwee on your computer? Hit up Mogwee for Web.

Enjoy, and please feel free to visit the Mogwee Blog for more information, or find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Political community with Ning, an Election Day state of mind

Every year, the Tuesday after the first Monday of November is America’s Election Day. Today, millions will exercise their civic duties by voting for elected officials and weighing in on local and state propositions.

As people head to the polls, we wanted to highlight a few current and past Ning political communities for individuals running for elected positions, and offer a few best practice tips for community managers and online political engagement. More generally, the below can be applied as you appeal to your constituency or intended audience, discuss what you’re all about, and tell your story in an authentic and meaningful way – all-the-while building a base of supporters and a community standing behind you:

Think Local
What matters most to your constituency and how will you effectively communicate your stance on particular issues? What’s on the minds of your supporters, and how do you intend to affect things on a local level? Let supporters (and skeptics) know where you stand, and how their voting for you and your win will positively affect things locally.

Have a first-hand approach
Welcome your supporters by writing first-hand accounts as you campaign via blog posts or quick status updates. If you use services like Twitter or Facebook to send updates, embed your streams front and center on your community. This not only gives people an up-to-date sense of what you’re focusing on, it gives them lightweight options to stay informed, and lets them know about upcoming speaking engagements and public appearances where they can meet you.

Make your online presence shine
Not every politician has a six-plus figure budget to work with for his or her campaign. The beauty of the Internet is that it has opened the doors to sharing information globally, letting you affordably tell your story and positions to anyone. As more and more people of all ages turn to the Web for their news and information, consider what’s top-of-mind for voters, and what they’re likely searching for and typing in Google and other search engines. Ensuring you includes terms, words and phrases important to voters will help you get the word out about your campaign when they search the Web. This practice, known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), can improve the volume and quality of traffic from visitors coming to your community.

If you create a campaign video, be sure to upload it to your Ning community, as well as third-party video sharing services like YouTube and Vimeo. Embed the video in your community or on blog posts and pages you create, and add a URL link back to your Ning community if you upload the video to third-party services.

Encourage your supporters to share your stance
Leveraging the social circles of your biggest supporters can lead to virality, spreading the word about your campaign faster. Adding to this, people trust brand recommendations made by friends, family and acquaintances – for many, the influences made by personal recommendations and support during elections is no different. Interesting and thought-provoking content you create and post is likely something people will want to share, and by enabling social sharing through services like Google+, Facebook and Twitter, you make it very easy for your supporters to let their friends and family learn more about you.

A social community to encourage social good: 4 steps to fundraising and spreading the word about your cause

Movember is a month-long event raising awareness and funds for men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer. Men of all ages are growing out their facial hair to raise awareness. Zaniness aside, donning some scruff in November sparks the conversation and gets people thinking about the health issues affecting millions each year.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, we highlighted the Ning Community, The Pink Daisy Project, which helps and supports women going through breast cancer treatment. We spoke at length with Ning Creator Debbie Cantwell about her experience in building the community, fundraising and helping women afflicted by breast cancer.

This got us thinking… What is the recipe for building and supporting fundraising drives and initiatives by non-profit organizations, do-gooders, and even everyday Joe Schmoes? It’s clear the Internet is now a driving force for causes, initiatives and passion projects, encouraging volunteerism and bettering real-world communities around the globe; How are people using democratized technology like the web to make the world a better place?

So, we wanted to dive into the bread-and-butter ways people are using their Ning communities to turn projects and initiatives into positive and tangible realities.


1. Make a personal appeal
In one way or another, you’ve likely been touched by the cause you’re promoting and raising funds to support. Telling your story about why it’s important to you makes it personal and humanizes your mission. Share your personal story with your circle of friends and acquaintances, and make it accessible to everyone. Personal stories strike an accord with people, in turn giving others the strength to share their own stories and how they’ve been affected – soliciting both positive feedback, and a continuous loop to promoting the cause to others through more story telling and sharing.

One way to tell your story is put it in a blog post, or in the main section where you’re promoting your cause through your Ning community. Incorporate text, photos, videos, sound bites and links to news clips or prevalent information. This weaves your story into something that can be consumed by anyone.


2. Make it easy for people to contribute and donate
Whether your goal is generating awareness, fundraising, or something else, you want to make it easy and straightforward for people to engage with your cause. Your Ning community makes it easy for anyone to join, post and share. If you have social-in enabled, people can join and post with their Facebook, Yahoo!, Twitter or Google identities, removing the need to remember another screen name, account or password.

Collecting donations should also be frictionless. To collect donations, you can create a donate page on your Ning Community, or add a direct link to donation and payment services at your disposal, like StayClassy and PayPal. Ning offers an integrated Donate App that lives within your community, and facilitates direct donations to your organization’s PayPal account. Use Ning’s Paid Access add-on feature to solicit donations in exchange for access to special sections or content within your Ning community.


3. Thank your biggest supporters
Everyone likes to be acknowledged or thanked, and doing so can be done in an authentic way, in just a matter of clicks. Post links to stories people have shared with you, or highlight the financial generosity of others by posting a link to the donor or the donating organization, solicit feedback from your community – all within your Ning Network. You can also send community-wide email messages to tip your hat to contributors.

Others will see your shout-outs and thanks to donors and contributors, encouraging them to pay it forward by taking similar actions like contributing to your cause.


4. Partner with like-minded organizations and people
You’re likely not the only person or group supporting the same cause – especially if you’ve built a bustling destination with supporters joining as members! Connecting with allies and partners affords you more opportunities to spread the word about your efforts and further raise awareness.

Through partnerships, you’ll also be helping in the success of others with the same goals as yourself. To achieve this, cross-sharing stories, content, pulling in RSS feeds, events and meet-ups can create multiple touch-points for the cause and allows people to engage with your organization in the ways they’re most comfortable. Casting a larger net from an audience through outside parties and social channels like blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter streams can turn a scattering of likeminded people into a critical mass of social good.


Have you applied the above steps for social good through your Ning community? What’s worked for your cause? Let us know in the comments.