What We’ve Been Up To

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We’ve been busy here at Ning HQ with a number of different projects all focused on making Ning Networks grow faster, attract more members, and generate more engagement across the board. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that in our haste to work on these projects, we’ve been radio silent on our roadmap, why we’re working on what we’re working on, and what to expect from us in the next three months and beyond.

That changes now.

Let’s first start with why we’ve been doing the releases we’ve been doing, then we’ll talk about the future roadmap in a follow-up post. Our priorities in the past three months have focused on the following things:

Getting Ready for the Next 10 Million Ning Networks. We love the close to 1.3M social networks that have been created on Ning in the past two and a half years. At our current growth rates, we’ll have close to 3M social networks on the Ning Platform by the end of 2009, and over 10M by the end of 2010.

To make sure that we stay humming along, we obviously wanted to get out in front of this growth. As we’ve been reinforcing our infrastructure, there have been some bumps in the transition and we’ve been quieter than we have been in the past with new features. That being said, we’re extremely happy with how we’ve optimized the Ning Platform to make it stronger, faster, and even more scalable, and we will continue to do behind-the-scenes optimization projects from here.

Understanding Performance Patterns. We’ll be talking a lot more about this in the coming weeks as we tweak a few things, but as people are discovering the full power and flexibility available in a Ning Network, we’ve been seeing performance patterns change. In turn, this impacts the patterns by which new members join, how long and what ways existing members engage with your Ning Network, etc.

That’s a fancy way of saying that as people have added more features to, say, the Main Page, the laws of physics have meant that as these pages get slower fewer people are going to wait more than 4 seconds for the Main Page to load. It’s been fascinating to see just how dramatically member engagement on a Ning Network benefits from removing features, keeping a header small, and making crisp decisions upfront to focus on a few features at the expense of overwhelming members with choices.

We believe that growth across each and every Ning Network will take off even further as we provide better education and limits so that a Ning Network’s Main Page doesn’t take 80 seconds to load, then we’ll roll out a whole host of new features that we’ve talked about before – Ning Apps and Status Messages to name two – after everything is as speedy as possible.

Tweaking the Experience on Core Features. The areas above have been what has taken up the majority of our time in the past few months. As a result, the features we’ve been working on – from Chat to Latest Activity, the Flash uploader, and Members pages – aren’t the sexiest features in the world. However, we prioritized them to get more information on maximizing engagement and providing a strong foundation that we can build on from here.

We are continuing to experiment in a few areas, Members pages for example, to see what happens to flows and patterns as we tweak things. We’ll keep you posted on what we find among things that are “in production” today and, from here, we’re looking to roll out Ning Apps widely later this summer as well as launch status messages and virtual gifts in your Ning Network.

I’ll talk more about what’s next from here in an upcoming blog post and, in the meantime, we hope that helps shed a bit more light on what we’ve been far too quietly working on. Thanks!

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14 thoughts on “What We’ve Been Up To

  1. Laura Oppenheimer

    Hi Jean,

    I agree — we can definitely do a better job of handling links posted in Facebook. We’re working on getting this fixed; the first step in that process is doing to happen in early August, with the complete fix hopefully coming not too long after that.

    Thanks!
    Laura

  2. Jean

    I second what Mike said above – Facebook connect would be great; I’d settle for being able to link directly to pages inside the social network from Facebook. (If I post a link from the social network to my FB page, when someone clicks on it, it redirects them to the home page of the social network instead of the page I created the link to). I reported this issue some months back and it hasn’t been fixed. Can we have an update, please? Thank you.

  3. Shelli Russell

    Great to hear about what’s in the works. Glad for Chat out of the bar too, but wish I could put it in the right column as before. My dream feature is still recurring dates on the Events calendar. Many thanks!

    1. Nick

      Thanks Shelli! I totally understand the preference for chat in the right-hand column. However, the delay from caching as well as the limited real estate over there makes that option a bit tricky so we’ve limited it to the center column for now.

      Recurring events are actually not too straight-forward to implement because of the way the Events feature works. That said, this feature request is on our radar — we know it would be an awesome boost to Events for you and a ton of other Network Creators.

  4. Mike

    Hi,

    Im happy. Im happy cuase Ning staff is alive and back in action. No more silence guys this is a very bad option and feeds rumors,

    I have a question. Ning apps are very important but how about to improve the management of contet. Some problems:

    – We need facebook connect and better Twitter integration

    – Improve user management. Rankings, followers or fans…

    -Better use of content: If the iAB use a standar banner 300×250 and i assing this dimensions to a column of my layout i loose some of my contens.

    -Improve video, audio and photo features maybe with premium services.

    Do you have any plan for this.

    Thank you in advance and “welcomeback”

  5. Jupiter Xarr

    Maybe I’m missing the point of this post. As users we already assume you all are keeping on top of scalability and other technical issues. This is just one more example of Ning’s failure to understand their members. All we are asking for are options instead on dead ends. It would have been nice to give us and/or our users an option with the new member page layout. I’m sure you a few who don’t care either way, but the list layout is so lame. Ask anyone and grid view is most preferred for skimming.

    I won’t go into al my grievances here, but the dichotomy between Ning and its network creators has widened to the point of embarrassment. I. however, remain an optimist and hope Ning starts to push the envelope more and stop following social trends.

    1. Nick

      Hi Jupiter,

      I appreciate that you want the freedom to manage and display your Ning Network as you see fit. And in almost every case, we want to give you that freedom. But as Gina said, the features we’ve been working on lately (Chat, Latest Activity, Flash uploader, Members) were all tweaked to maximize engagement and spur on activity.

      We want to give you choices whenever we can, but we’ll always err on the side of setting your Ning Network up for success over more options. If we find that these updates aren’t effective, we’ll absolutely revisit them and figure out what’s the best next step.

      And just to address your point about us keeping on top of scalabilty — you’re right that we’re always working on infrastructure, but even this takes time and energy — especially when it means staying ahead of our accelerating growth and prepping for the next 10 million social networks.

      I’m sure this doesn’t cover all your grievances, but if you drop us a note in the Ning Help Center we’d like to hear what’s on your mind.

      Thanks,
      Nick

  6. Princess

    thank you, Gina. But do you know, when can we expect the online lamps? Next week… in two weeks… in… ?
    I have recently spoken with some guys about that, and we all miss the indicators very much, you know…

    1. Nick

      Hi Princess,

      Like Gina said, first we want to make sure that the Online Indicators scale well and stay speedy. That’s what we’re up to now, and because we’re still tackling this I can’t say for sure when we’ll bring them back.

      I know you’re missing them and we want to add Online Indicators back as soon as they’re ready. We’ll keep you updated as we have more info.

      Thanks
      Nick

  7. Airblais

    Thank You…..

    Please keep a higher level of communication and transparency in the future. It is very helpful to know what’s going on in the background. You obviously don’t have to overload us with technical details but a broad sense of what you’re working on is helpful to us. We have taken ownership of our Networks and it gets frustrating when were held in the dark about what’s in the works.

    Also, please be forthcoming about new product releases, when they’re behind schedule and why (ie: Ning Apps). Some of my members are continually asking me when they will see Video Chat (for example) and I have to tell them that I have no clue!

    Please keep up the good work, but above all please keep us informed!

    1. Gina Bianchini Post author

      They are coming. We don’t want to add them back until we are sure that they can scale and still be speedy at 1.3M social networks. We are on the case though and will update you as soon as we know more.

  8. James Rivera

    Hey Keep us the great work over there! You guys are ROCKING IT!!!

    Thanks!
    James Rivera
    Co-Founder of BabySpot.com

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