Author Archives: Ernie Hsiung

Only Two Weeks Left in the Ning Developer Challenge


The Ning Developer Challenge — which kicked off at Campus Party 2010 in São Paulo, Brazil — is a worldwide OpenSocial development competition focused on applications devoted to public management, environment and entrepreneurship. The winner in each of these three categories will receive a $3,000 (US dollars) award.

Entries are due by March 19th, 2010. Read more about the challenge here. Good luck!

From Yelp to Member Rank: New Ning Apps


The Ning Apps team is dedicated to giving you new features that are both fun and functional. Below are four new Ning Apps we’ve recently introduced to the Ning Apps directory that we hope you find useful as a Network Creator. To install a Ning App to your Ning Network, click on the title link and select the the “Add to my Network” button.

You can already add YouTube videos — along with videos from other services such as Hulu and Vimeo — to your Ning Network. However, if you have an existing YouTube Playlist or a series of videos created by YouTube member, this app is an easy way for members of your Ning Network to directly browse that batch of clips. Peter from Team-M Taekwondo used his Ning App to automatically post his YouTube promotional videos to his Ning Network (check out the video of his team performing at a Golden State Warriors halftime show — pretty cool.)

Yelp Maps
Yelp is a popular user reviews and local search site in major cities across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The Yelp Maps Ning App allows members of a Ning Network to enter a keyword and a location, then see the results displayed on a map. The Yelp Maps Ning App is a great option for Ning Networks based around a specific location, like Oak Park, IL, or Astoria, NY.

Member Rank
Who’s the best player on the team? Who’s the funniest member of the improv squad? This app lets members rank their friends on a scale of 1 to 10, then see how they stack up against the rest of the social network. Network Creators can customize the description for their own, specific purposes and members can opt out of the process.

Member Mix

Loosely based on a gift exchange program, this Ning App allows a group of registered members to be assigned a random member. Perfect for Secret Santas, gift exchanges or good old fashioned collegiate games.

For more information about developing your own Ning App, or to see the complete Ning Apps directory, head to the Ning Developer Network.

Magazine-style content, courtesy of feedly


Note: As of April 2, the feedly Ning App is temporarily unavailable.

As Network Creator, you can create a Ning Network about a topic you find interesting. And chances are, you probably read a lot of stuff online to stay up-to-date — you read blogs, web magazines, online journals, things like that. You could go read every piece of content one website at a time, but there are different web applications that let you read online content in one handy place.

One tool that let’s you do this, is recent Ning Appathon winner feedly, which was originally created as a browser toolbar that grabs the content of blogs and other pages around the internet, and then displays it in a magazine-style format. Think of it as a feed reader like Google Reader, but with a really pretty presentation.

How is this useful for your Ning Networks? Simple — if you already read a bunch of content from around the web from sources you already trust, feedly allows you to publish these really pretty pages to your Ning Networks. Do you run a Ning Network on hip-hop culture and just happen to bookmark a lot of hip-hop sites on your browser? You can use feedly to take articles or blog posts from those web pages, wrap them up in a pretty package, and then show it off as a page on your Ning Network for your members to browse. It’s a little bit like having your own customized magazine that edits itself!

Continue reading

How Events and RSS work on 8Asians

I work with a lot of developers in my role as a developer evangelist. If you’ve ever been on the Ning Developer Network, you’ve probably seen my profile photo once or twice in the forum.

And, like a lot of other people who work at Ning — actually, like a lot of people everywhere — I have my own set of interests and passions outside of work. A couple of years ago I started, a blog that focuses on Asian American and Asian American issues; we talk about everything from activist issues to pop culture and pretty much everything in between. As the blog focuses on the Asian community, creating a Ning Network was a natural solution to allow readers of the blog to interact with each other.

One of the ways people have used has been as a way to add community events; actresses have logged on to the Ning Network to post their one-woman shows, musicians have been taking advantage of the events feature to post events of future concert dates, etc. And thanks to the way Ning now handles RSS feeds for events on Ning Networks (including the addition of event date in the title), it makes sense to expose those events on my main blog, even though the blog is external.

Getting the RSS for events on a Ning Network is easy, provided that it’s public. I go to my Events page, and click on the RSS icon in the lower left corner; this automatically creates an RSS feed of all events that are either currently going on, or will be happening in the near future.

Now the trick is to actually take that RSS and put it somewhere on your blog. Depending on the blog software you use, your mileage will vary: if your external blog is using or if you have a pre-designed blog theme that supports widget implementation, it’s as easy as customizing your RSS widget. The folks at RSS have created a video specifically for showing you how to add RSS to powered blogs.

And of course, this works for any RSS feed of a publicly accessible Ning Network. If you want to expose the RSS feed of a Ning Network’s forum or show the last updated photos via RSS feed, you can do that, too. Just look for the RSS logo, either on the page itself, or pick it up from your browser.

Ernie Hsiung is Ning’s Developer Evangelist. You see his photograph a lot on the front page of the Ning Developer Network, but hopefully with input from developers and Network Creators like yourself, that will change soon.

The Hue and Cry Music Club

If you grew up in the UK in the 1980s, you may be familiar with brothers Pat and Greg Kane, otherwise known as pop group Hue And Cry. With singles such as “Labour of Love”, they have definitely made an impression on the UK music scene. I would talk a bit about their new Hue And Cry Music Club, but Pat brings it up in an issue of The Big Issue Scotland, and I really couldn’t say it better myself:

So we’ve built the Hue And Cry Music Club, accessible from, which is a celebration of our music and performance in all its guises – prioritising the audience as much as the artist. When fans join up, they can see high-quality videos of gigs past, present and future; they can even vote on the favourite cover they’d love us to do as a piano-vocal, which we’ll then broadcast. There’s a social networking forum called History City, which gives every gig we’ve ever performed over the last 22 years its own website. We invite fans to upload memories, memorabilia and meet old friends in the process.

For those who want to see “under the hood” of our recorded music, we have the Music Lab and Lyrics Lab, where Greg and I show how we put our tracks together – and provide sound samples from those tracks available for download and remix.

This is all free at the moment, digitally hand crafted by Greg and I. It’s also, frankly, more labour (of love?) than I’ve ever put into anything. But the sense of control over one’s own destiny is amazing, and the interaction with the fans that are beginning to find us on the web is already rich and rewarding.

Never one to rest on previous laurels, they have built an interactive component to their social network, submitting a list of twelve songs to cover for their members to vote on. After a round of voting, they’ll be covering songs such as “Knocks Me Off My Feet” by Stevie Wonder and “King of Pain” by Sting in the upcoming year. For people outside of the UK who may not have heard of Hue And Cry up to this point, take a listen at this acoustic cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love”:

Awesome, right? Right. Because for Hue And Cry, having a social network is a great way to connect with their lifelong fans as well as a great way to make new fans all around the world.

Meeting other James Patterson fans

According to, one of every fifteen hardcover novels sold last year was a James Patterson title.  His numerous novels including Along Came a Spider and the Women’s Murder Club series has earned him a New York Times bestsellers list record with 39 New York Times bestselling titles overall.  So it may come as no surprise to hear that the best selling author has his own social network at the James Patterson Community.

What do members of a social network for James Patterson do?  Meet other fans, of course!  There are currently groups to discuss everything from the Women’s Murder Club TV series to whether Sail is his best series yet.  You can watch videos of Patterson answering questions and upload your own multimedia. And according to his official website, “James himself will be dropping in from time to time to read your posts and answer your questions.”  The key to a dynamic social network is unique, exclusive content, and you really can’t get more exclusive than that.

If you’re a proud owner of one of the 150 million copies of James Patterson’s books worldwide, join the James Patterson Community!

Rockin’ a forum: An interview with Ariel Meadow Stallings

A couple of months ago we profiled the Offbeat Bride Tribe. One of the things we immediately noticed about their network is their active forum section — hundreds of brides and brides-to-be sharing tips, tricks and advice. We were fortunate enough to sit down — well, virtually sit-down — with Network Creator Ariel to see what kind of advice she could give to maintaining an active forum.

Hi Ariel! For the people unfamiliar, can you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about the network you’ve created?
I split my time between being a marketing manager for Microsoft, and then writing books, blogs and magazine articles. My first book, Offbeat Bride: Taffeta-Free Alternatives For Independent Brides, came out last year and I launched at the same time. Obviously, a forum was a natural fit for the site, but I’ve managed forums in the past, and I sort of hate them … all that moderating and back-end work are irritating. Plus, the last time I hosted my own forum, it got hacked and was ultimately used to spread an email virus. ACK. I’m a geek, but I’m not into doing back-end PHP work to keep my forum working.

But last fall I started getting emails from readers begging for a forum of some kind. I was hesitant and knew I didn’t want host it … plus, forums feel awful Web 1.0 and very 1998 … so I decided as an experiment to start a network on Ning.

Within days the network had hundreds of users, and within six months it was up to 3,000. I’ve been shocked by the popularity! I guess nontraditional brides really have a lot to get off their chests. 🙂

Continue reading

Welcome to Scheffland, population: fit

Scheffland is the social network of Jason Scheff – you might know him as the current bassist and lead vocalist of the rock band Chicago. Residents of Scheffland have posted videos and photos of their experiences at Chicago shows and can keep up to date with the singer by listening to his newest tracks or watching his live video streams, linked off his front page.

And for those people that want a side of “lifestyle change” with their rock and roll, there is “The Scheffy Challenge.” Inspired by Jeff losing 45 pounds in the last 11 months and five inches off his waist, Jeff is inspiring members of Scheffland to get fit, matching them with coaches and a diet/exercise program.

As for what Jeff is doing? He says it best in an e-mail: “I’m going out on tour in June with a co-bill, Chicago/Doobie Bros. We’ve actually started the Chicago World Tour 2008 in March. We’ve been to Japan so far with Huey Lewis and are going out with The Doobies, as I mentioned, and then heading over to Europe to play the summer festivals with Chicago. Having the Ning platform to run my social network is REALLY exciting. Just in three days of letting select fans in to beta test it [and] it’s blowing up already! Check it out.”

Laying the smackdown on Florida Wrestling fans

Florida Wrestling Fans is for, who else, wrestling fans. From Florida. Aside from a simple and direct network name, the network — created by Justin Ferren — is also a community of fans, wrestlers and independent wrestling promotions in Florida such as Full Impact Pro and Federation X Entertainment.

Events on this network work really well here — the wrestlers themselves are commenting about their upcoming bouts, doing what wrestlers do best: endless amounts of trash talking. Members can also watch wrestling clips, talk about the local wrestling circuit and be friends with wrestlers such as Naphtali, Kim Dakota and Moonshine McCoy, which wins my personal title of “Best Wrestler Name I’ve Seen on a Social Network.”

Fans in Florida, get out there and support your local wrestling community! Me, I’ll be in the back, safe from any flying suplexes gone awry.