Author Archives: Phil

Introducing New Sign-up Options Including LinkedIn and Windows Live

Our Product Roadmap this year is rolling along smoothly. Today, we’re happy to be releasing another project that we think will be very useful: a whole bunch of new sign-up and sign-in options. Let’s get right to it.

Let Members Join with LinkedIn and Windows Live

We’ve heard a lot of requests from Network Creators who want additional sign-up/sign-in options. You’ll be happy to hear that Social Sign In now includes both LinkedIn and Windows Live, which will be great news for business-focused networks and many international networks (e.g., Windows Live is huge in Brazil). The set-up for these will be very similar to Facebook and Twitter options; as the Network Creator, you’ll need to create an app for this purpose by entering your own LinkedIn or WindowsLive credentials.

Ready to create yours? Here are the Help Center articles for LinkedIn and for Windows Live.

Sign-up redirection

Want to send new members somewhere besides the Main Page — where they currently land after signing up? This is another request we’ve heard over time — to be able to redirect members to their own profile page or to a very specific page that a Network Creator has created to serve as a welcome landing page. Now, Ning Plus and Pro Network Creators have the option to send new members to either the Main Page, their own profile page (MyPage), or a custom URL.

This custom URL can be an external URL if you need to integrate your network with another web property. For example, Pro networks may want to send new members to an external web application that makes use of the Ning API to retrieve that new member’s information and register them before sending them back to the network.

We hope this will give you a few added options for customization of your new-member experience. Check out this Help Center article about these new redirection options for all the details.

Mix, match or remove sign-up / sign-in

You will now see that your options for sign up and sign in are split, and that “native” network sign in and sign up are included as options. This will allow you to turn off specific services for new members while allowing existing members to continue to sign in to the network, or to do things like limit all new members to Facebook or LinkedIn if it better matches your network’s theme and aims, or if you’d like your members to be a little less anonymous than they otherwise could be.

There’s an additional option here, one that won’t appeal to most Network Creators but that can be powerful for sites that are, for example, less about socializing and more about publishing. That option is to completely remove all sign-ups. If you make this choice, all invite options will be removed and no new members will be able to sign up. This might be an attractive choice if your network is focused on publishing, for example, and not social networking.

Want the full skinny on this new sign-up/sign-in split? Read all about it in this Help Center article.

Member categories and badges are here!

Not too long ago, we laid the groundwork for our member categories feature by streamlining the management of your existing and prospective members. This feature is now live and we wanted to share with you the details and how it works.

Categories
You can create up to 50 categories and assign members to them. All of your members will begin in the default category, called “Members.” You can create and edit new categories via the Member Categories tab in the Member Management section. A couple of important limitations to note: the default category can’t be edited, and members can only belong to one category at a time.

Listings
When you create a category, you have an option to create a listing page exclusively for the members in that category, and you can create listing pages for up to 10 categories. When you do this, a new submenu item for the category will appear in the submenu items for Member pages. You can choose the text for the submenu listing, so that you can pluralize or customize it. This is a great way to highlight specific members within your community.

Image and Text Badges
Each category that you create can also have an optional image or text badge that gets added as an overlay on a member’s profile picture. Whether you create badges of honor or badges of shame, this is an excellent way to identify admins, reward special members, or just make it easy for visitors to identify different types of members. Text badges are based on the category name, and can be placed at the top or bottom of the profile picture. You can set the text color, background color, and the background opacity for each badge, so you can get as creative as you like!

Images badges can be positioned in one of the four corners of a member’s profile picture. We’ve included over 20 badges to get you started, and you can upload and manage up to 50 of your own custom badges!

CSS Tricks
Designers and Ning Creators comfortable with CSS will be pleased to know that each category made is associated with a CSS class added to the #xg_themebody div in profile pages. This means you can create CSS styles that will be applied to the profile pages of members in a category. This will let you do things like adjust the background or color scheme of every member of your network who’s in a specific category.

Messaging
Once you’ve assigned your members to categories, you can use new functionality in the Broadcast Message feature to send a broadcast message to just those members. Choose any category you’ve created and proceed from there.

A few ways you might use this

Suggested use for categories: Teachers & Students
You run a community for karate enthusiasts and want to reward members with the best zen advice; spotlight the admins who help you run your community; and identify long-time masters who practice as professional teachers and run their own expertise-based groups on your community (sensei).

  • Create a category for members who say smart zen-like things and surprise them with a zen-circle icon badge in the bottom-right area of their profile picture.
  • Create a category for admins. Then, make a text badge that says “Admin” and slap it on your admins’ profiles by assigning them to the category. Instant authority. Create a listing page of your admins so new members can easily see who they are.
  • Show the teachers on your community some respect with a Japanese two-character sensei logo — in the upper right-hand corner of their profile picture because kanji reads from top to bottom!

Suggested use for badges: Marathon Masters
You run a sporty community of long-distance runners who regularly keep track of the number of marathons they’ve tackled. You always encourage them to post a summary blog post after each new marathon describing how they overcame the toughest moment of the race. It’s not a totally competitive network, but there sure is something awesome about rewarding people who have run 1, 5, 10, or even 20 marathons in a lifetime! Set up categories for each one of these designations and reward them with I, V, X, and XX text badges — old school Ancient Greece marathon style.

Suggested use for messaging categories: Quiet Targets
Your nonprofit community for animal lovers doesn’t have a hierarchy — everyone is equal and respected in their own way. But… you wouldn’t mind sending them targeted broadcast messages from time to time. Create a batch of categories for owners of dogs, cats, birds, lizards — you name it. Remember: You don’t have to expose these categories to members if you don’t want. If you have a special promotion you only want to send to lizard lovers, lock and load a broadcast message.

Suggested use for CSS category class: Classy Profile Pages
You run a community of educators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders all focused on spreading the gospel of e-learning. You rely heavily on both experts and sponsors to make your site run. They don’t want to be seen as behaving in a crass, commercial way in forum conversations, and you don’t want to be seen as unwittingly enabling unknown advertising to your members. Set up categories to transparently identify them, and you can even go a step further (if you have the CSS chops) and give their profile pages special headers, colors, and treatments. Expert profile pages!

Let us know how you’re using member categories and badges within your community!

Introducing Add-On Features: More Flexibility To Create The Community You Need

One consistent theme we’ve heard from our Ning Creators is how important it is to be able to create the social experience that’s right for their communities. We have a diverse customer base and every Ning Network is unique – some may center around community listening while others may focus on event organizing or revenue generation.

Back a few months ago, we launched Paid Access as our first optional add-on feature to provide Ning Creators with more options to customize their social experience. Today, we’re taking a further step to give you more flexibility to add features that are important to your community without requiring you to upgrade to a more expensive plan. Four Add-On features are now available individually for a set monthly fee: Groups, Events, Branded Music Player and Branded Video Player. If you’re a Mini customer, you now have the option of adding one or more of these features to your current plan. If you’re a Plus customer, you already have access to Groups and Events; you’ll now have the option to add a Branded Music Player and / or a Branded Video Player.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the new “Add-Ons” link on your Dashboard menu. We have more Add-On features planned, so let us know which additional features you’d like to see in the comments below.

Building Outside The Frame: Aviary Ning Extension Allows For Integrated Photo Editing

Today, we’re excited to unveil the Aviary Ning Extension, a tool that can increase member engagement and inject fun and utility into Ning social websites using photos feature.

The Big Picture

Photo sharing continues to be one of the most popular features on Ning, second only to the inbox/forum. By working closely with Aviary (www.aviary.com), a leading provider of creative web and mobile tools, we make photo sharing even more powerful and fun for your community through the Ning API.

Our priority is to provide the best social experience for Ning Creators; we’re constantly pushing the innovation envelope through product development and partnerships. By strategically partnering with the best-in-class providers and services, like we’ve done with Aviary today, and uStream and SoundCloud earlier this year, we can roll-out new functionality even faster.

The new Aviary extension lets Ning Plus and Pro Creators and members easily edit photos directly in a Ning Network. It’s easy to make useful tweaks like cropping and red-eye reduction; editing the contrast, brightness and colors; adding text to photos; and — if you’re feeling creative and playful — placing “stickers” like mustaches, hats and sunglasses directly onto the images of people and objects in your photos.

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Aviary’s Ning Extension gives people the freedom to make these changes on the fly, meaning these creative tweaks happen directly within Ning Networks and lets you speak volumes, such as on PetBrags.com:

How it Works

Ning Creators and members have always been free to express themselves, and now, our partnership with Aviary opens the floodgates for letting them do so in a new, unique and fun way. Aviary’s suite can be applied across Ning Networks and even integrates with making changes to member profile photos — now, it’s never been easier to show off your personality!

Once Aviary is up and running, simply hover your mouse over a photo you want to edit and you’ll see a “Photo Stickers & Effects” option. This will start up Aviary’s editor and encourage you to apply updates, transformations and filters to your photo. Once the changes you want to make are complete, click on “Save” and the modified photo will be saved back to the Ning Network.

To activate the Aviary Ning Extension, just head to your network dashboard and visit the Ning Extensions page (under Tools). Once there, click “Activate” to turn it on. For troubleshooting visit this Ning Help Center article.

Updates to Pages

Today, we’re making the Pages feature a lot more powerful for Plus and Pro networks. Pages have always been a great way to add useful content to your network like a list of resources, community guidelines, or an embedded third-party application. Following on from the privacy and design updates we made a couple of weeks ago, we’ve added the ability for you to customize URLs, directly control the title and metadata for SEO purposes, and inject custom Javascript and CSS into the <head> tag on individual Pages.

From today, when you create or edit a Page, you’ll see a field for specifying its URL address. New Pages you create will automatically have a URL like /pages/here-is-the-title. You can modify this and change the value after /pages/ if you wish. Even better, you can choose a completely custom URL if you prefer. If you’ve created an “About Us” Page that tells people all about your network, for example, you can now choose to have it appear at yournetwork.com/about. This will make it both more memorable and more findable by visitors and search engines. The best part is that if you already have an “About Us” page like this on your network and it has a URL like /page/about-1, you can now point it to /about. Anyone who visits the original URL will automatically be redirected to the new one. You can have up to 50 Pages with root-level custom URLs (example.com/something) on your network.

If Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important to you, you’ll be happy to hear that each Page now has an option for you to manage the title and meta tags of that Page manually. The title and meta description for a Page are determined automatically based on its content; in most cases, this provides good results when it comes to SEO. If you are an advanced user and want more control, you can now specify the contents of the title tag and the meta description tag directly. If you’re trying to improve your network’s search engine rankings and organic search traffic, this will surely be an indispensable tool.

Finally, we’ve made some updates to the Tab Manager, now called Tabs & Pages in the Admin menu, to simplify it and make it easier for you to connect tabs to existing features and Pages. You can try it out (and view all of these Page changes) by navigating to the Tabs & Pages section of your Dashboard, creating a new tab, and selecting the option to create a new Page.

We’re excited to see how you’ll use these powerful new options on your network!

Ustream and Ning – Bringing the Power of Streaming Video to Your Community

Today, we’re rolling out a new Ning Extension: Ustream. Ustream lets you record and broadcast video with just about any camera — including one you may already have built-in to your computer. The Ustream integration with Ning is designed to be easy to use so you can be up and running within minutes and play streaming video directly to visitors and members on your Ning social site. This is an excellent tool for Ning Creators who want to harness the power of video, and it’s now available for all Ning Plus and Pro subscribers.

To get started, simply navigate to the Ning Extensions section of your Dashboard and click “Activate” next to the Ustream listing. Yes, it’s that simple to turn it on. If you don’t already have a Ustream account, you’ll need to create one, but the process is very easy. Once it’s activated, Ustream will live as a pull-out tab on the side of your Ning social site. When your Ustream channel is live, you’ll see a green indicator dot. When it’s dormant, you’ll see a red indicator dot. Your members can click on the tab at any time to watch live or recorded video from your channel in a pop-up window that is easily dismissible. You can even have live chats during videos in the Ustream Extension window, making this an excellent way to get your members engaged in a unique, live event no matter where everyone is located around the world.

Whether you want to use video to run a workshop, talk through a tutorial, or broadcast a live party, you’ll find the Ustream Ning Extension easy to set up and use. If you’re a music artist, what better way to do a live pre-show warm up to get fans around the world pumped for your upcoming concert? If you teach a class remotely (or want to), this could be just about the best thing that could happen to you. Maybe you just want to run a live Q&A session to get closer with your community members. The possibilities are ripe for experimentation. Best of all, it’s free for Ning Plus and Pro.

So how will you use it? Feel free to share your ideas below.

Introducing the Ning API

Today, we’re pleased to announce the official launch of the Ning API. API is an abbreviation for Application Programming Interface; it’s a system that allows trusted mobile or desktop applications and third-party services to interact with your Ning Pro Network. This means your members can see network activity, update their status, and post photos and blog posts on the go.

How should you leverage the new API? That depends on your development experience or budget. If you are a Ning Pro subscriber and a developer (or have access to a developer), you can start building applications that use the API now. Dive right in to our docs and examples. We even have helper classes that will get you started if you’re using Java, PHP, or Python. Find out how to manage your API keys here.

Ning mobile partners

If you’re not a developer, we’ve lined up some amazing partners who will help you build powerful mobile applications for your members, and they offer solutions to fit a wide range of budgets.

  • Mobile Roadie, a Premium Ning partner, creates beautiful iPhone and Android apps that can be tied directly into your Ning Network.
  • Without any special skills, you can create an AppMakr iPhone app and submit it to the Apple Store for approval.
  • DoubleDutch, a provider of location-based apps, offers a smart way to add location and check-ins to your Ning Network.

A few details on how the API works

All Pro Ning Networks will receive the first 10,000 API requests for free, and bundles of 20,000 additional requests will be available at $15/month. Since the API is new for Network Creators, we want to help you get started and let you gauge your Ning Network’s API usage. So, we’re offering all API requests for free until the end of this year.

We’re excited to see how our creative Network Creators are going to leverage the power of the Ning API for their networks.