Author Archives: Allison Leahy

Decorating Your Online Community for the Holidays

If you run an online community, what are you doing to mark the season? The last candle of the Menorah will be lit on Saturday, and many are eagerly awaiting a visit from St. Nick. Historically, there is a sharp downturn in web traffic for non-ecommerce websites around Christmas time. A jolly atmosphere that reflects shifts in your real-world environment creates new potential to bridge this lull and may even boost engagement in your community. Give members a reason to spread the joy with you.

Brick and mortar establishments don’t have a monopoly on holiday decorations. You can break out the twinkly lights, poinsettias and dreidels and set your online community ablaze with winter warmth and merriment.

Consider your community, however—you’ll want to update the look of your network in a way that adds holiday spirit but doesn’t overshadow your members’ main reason for visiting. Adding animated auto-play carolers to the main page could scare some people off, but including a festive banner, virtual mistletoe or twinkly lights can be charming and memorable.

Ning Network holiday design main page CSS and JavaScript

Twinkly lights with CSS

Ning Superstar soaringeagle shared the following CSS code that you can use to make twinkly lights brighten up your community.

#xn_bar,.xg_theme .xg_module_head {background-image:url(“http://webdeveloper.com/animations/holiday/christmas/gifs/xmas_light.gif”);background-repeat:repeat-x;}

See the festive holiday decoration live here.

Snowstorm with JavaScript

Scott Schillman has been “bringing snow to the web since 2003.” Even if you’re in Australia this December, you can enjoy a light snowfall with Schillman’s JavaScript hack. To add the snow effect to your network, you’ll need to upload the original file, grab the new URL for the snowstorm, paste it into the code (see below), and then add that code to the Custom Code section on the dashboard of your network. If this sounds complicated, head to our Creators community for some extra guidance.

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”Replace-this-text-with-the-snowstorm-URL”></script>

Seasonal header or banner images

Don’t want to introduce a cold front or controlled blizzard into your community? You’ve got options! You can pack quite a holiday punch into a banner or redesigned header image.

If you’re not already using the Instant Ad Boxes on your network, you can repurpose them for just about anything—holiday banners included. The Instant Ad Boxes are as versatile as a text box and up to three times as wide. To open up space above and below the header on your network, head to Dashboard > Settings > Features Layout. The, check the box(es) next to Instant Ad Boxes (at the bottom of the page) and click “Save.”

Next, you’ll need to find your holly jolly imagery. Creative Commons has a great search tool that will help you find images licensed for commercial reuse and modification. Christmas Stock Images is another helpful resource this time of year. If you want these graphics to stretch across the width of the page, resize them to 960px.

You can thread season’s greetings throughout your community by adding similarly themed images to text boxes elsewhere on the main page. Or, maybe try this: Update the default member profile image to a snowman.

Holiday-themed discussions

Invite your members to share tidbits of their own. Most embarrassing holiday moments? Most magnificent holiday moments? Favorite holiday cookie recipes? Point visitors to these timely discussions by linking directly to them from a text box on the main page. If you’ve already got a tight-knit group, you can use the Forum or a Message Broadcast to start a gift exchange or mobilize a charitable event.

When you’re taking down the decorations this year, leave a little something behind. The new year is a great opportunity to thank all your members for making the community what it is today. You can hang a ‘Best Wishes’ note to express your gratitude and issue one more gesture of good will before it’s back to business as usual.

Custom NingBot holiday cards

Head to holiday.ning.com to assemble your own NingBot holiday card. Choose a backdrop and dress up your NingBot with a rosy nose, elf shoes, a corncob pipe, nerdy glasses, angel wings, bunny slippers…the list goes on. Include a personal note and send season’s greetings to friends and loved ones who make your spirit bright.

Happy holidays!

Images courtesy of sammydavisdog and Christmas Stock Images

Talking Politics, Voting with Confidence

The debates are over and there’s just under a week until the U.S. makes its decision at the polls. More than 19 million people have already voted, either by mail or in person. But states including New York, Connecticut and New Jersey may have less of a voter turnout than originally thought due to Hurricane Sandy, and there’s even been a call for President Obama to postpone the elections. Since that’s unlikely to happen, now is a good time to ask yourself: Are you prepared to vote?

One of the best ways to ready yourself for the voting booth is to study up and get familiar with local and national issues. Voter guides are helpful, but nothing beats discussion and debate. Online communities can be an ideal place to get a better grasp on the policies up for debate in this election.

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We’ve heard a lot about taxes, the economy, jobs, Big Bird, and reproductive rights this election, but issues like climate change, the housing market, gun control, immigration, Medicaid, the war on drugs, foreign policy and the Euro crisis have gotten short shrift during the campaign. And then, of course, there are state issues to consider.

Ning communities can help you discover how certain policies might change in the coming years and how new government proposals could directly affect you and your neighbors. The Concord Square hosts discussions on the the economy and jobs, for example, and promises to get you up to speed on budget and deficit issues. Smart Girl Politics, a political network for conservative women, live streamed the debates and hosts an active chat room where members can discuss the issues in real-time. The First Coast Tea Party is counting down to election time and firing up its members by organizing local action groups to canvas and get out the vote. GovLoop, a popular network that connects government professionals and inspires public service, is currently discussing topics that run the gamut from social media policy for political professionals to new opportunities in public service and everything in between.

Connecting readers to resources and leading conversations that result in meaningful action is a trademark of many online communities, whether they are political by nature or embrace this theme seasonally. Wherever you are and whatever you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to join the conversation and broaden your perspective. And however you choose to vote, make sure you get out there and do it!

Images courtesy of Cain and Todd BensonDave Hosford and robertpalmer via Flickr