Author Archives: Evan Goldin

Language Settings for Groups, now on Ning!

Do your members speak multiple languages? Make them feel right at home with a new feature now on your Ning Network: Language Settings for Groups.

With Language Settings for Groups, group creators and admins can choose the language for particular groups on the “Edit Group” page, and all parts of the group’s interface will appear in that language. When participating in a group with its language set to French, for example, phrases like “Started by” or action links like “Favorite” will be translated to “Créé par” and “Favori.” Even better: All email notifications received from participating in the group will be in French, too.

This is perfect for language-orientated groups on your Ning Network, like the French-speaking group on Ning Creators. Members already post in French, but they previously were forced to use an English interface. With this new option, they’ll have a much more native and comfortable experience within the group.

Even better, the portions of the user interface that are part of your Ning Network as a whole — the footer, your tabs, the right column — will remain untouched in your network’s default language. Member-generated content won’t change either, remaining in whatever language it was posted in.

Admin Experience

Network Creators and admins are responsible for their Ning Networks, and they often carefully review new posts throughout their communities. Of course, it could be confusing to try to manage a group if the management tools are in another language. Not everyone might know, for example, that “Supprimer” is the button to click to delete a French group.

To maintain a great and consistent experience, Network Creators or administrators will see all groups in the native network language. Additionally, they will see an informational banner at the top of the group telling them what language the group is using, and allowing Network Creators and administrators to see the group in the custom language, if they wish.

Network Creators and admins can click “View sample” to see the group in the custom language if they want to check out how the group appears to its members. A group’s language can be changed at any time from the group’s Options tab, where all editing of groups is normally done.

Because this feature is experimental and a significant change to the way groups, languages and emails work, we’ve launched it via Ning Labs. That’s the page on your Dashboard where you can activate experimental features as we prepare them for launch. You can toggle this feature on or off via Ning Labs, but it’s off by default.

We’d love your feedback on this new product. We hope this feature will lay the groundwork to eventually providing a language setting at the member level, giving an even better experience for your international and foreign-speaking members. Merci!

Google +1 Share Button: Now on Your Ning Network! More Controls Over Sharing

Do your Facebook and Twitter sharing buttons need some company? Now, add Google’s “+1” share buttons to every piece of content on your Ning Network, with a single click. Google’s +1 buttons “let people who love your content recommend it on Google search,” and share it on your stream with the new Google+ network. Just as with Network Like and Facebook Like, you can add a Google +1 button to:

  • Blogs
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Events
  • Discussions
  • Groups
  • Pages
  • Profiles

We’ve left this new button defaulted off, so to enable it, head to the updated “Share Links” settings page, in the “Features” section of your Dashboard. Once on the page, you’ll see a new Google +1 checkbox.

Note that this will be available to public Ning Networks. (Google’s +1 only works with public pages.)

Check it, and you’re all set!

While on this page, also check out the new “Share Links” section. These controls used to be on the Member Controls page. We’ve moved them to the “Share Links” page to allow you to manage all of the sharing/liking buttons in one place; you can now turn share links on and off per feature. Just click the “Customize Share Links by feature” link, and you’ll be able to disable share links on profiles, while leaving them on for blog posts, for example.

Once you’ve enabled the Google +1 button, your members can recommend your content to their friends searching the web. Additionally, if they’re sharing their +1s publicly, the content they’ve +1’d will appear in Google+ and to their Circles and +1 list.

Support for Google +1 also syncs with the algorithm for Leaderboards. It’s another great way to share content, find new members and drive engagement on your Ning Network!

Set custom URLs for your content

Earlier this month, we announced the ability to customize the URL of a Page on your Ning Network. Later today, we’re bringing that same functionality to other types of content, like photos and discussions.

As before, URLs will be automatically based on the title you give to the content you’ve added. But now, Network Creators and administrators will be able to customize the URL to display the text of their choice.

In addition to Pages and Groups, which already have the ability to define custom URLs, Network Creators and administrators can now customize the URLs for all types of content members can add, specifically:

  • Discussions
  • Group discussions
  • Events
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Blog posts

This change should allow Network Creators and administrators to improve their search engine optimization by tailoring URLs after specific keywords or sets of keywords.

Custom URLs will also mean a better user experience for your members. Previously, every time a title was changed on a piece of content, the URL changed with it, meaning that old links no longer worked. Now, after content has been added and the URL has been set for the first time, URLs will no longer change automatically when the title is changed or tweaked. The old URL will be preserved unless it is changed manually.

After collecting feedback from Network Creators, we decided that access to this functionality should be limited to Network Creators and administrators, to avoid any misuse by members.

Coming to Groups: Add Pages, change privacy settings and more

[Note: This release is now live.]

Groups are about to get a whole lot better.

Later next week, we’ll be rolling out a slew of improvements to the Groups feature, one of the most popular features on the Ning platform. We’re doing this based directly on feedback from Creators.

First, groups creators and administrators will be able to add static pages to a group. Added pages will be featured prominently on the group’s home page, which will make it easier to share knowledge or information with group members (or potential members).

Second, group creators and administrators will soon be able to change the privacy settings of an existing group. Today, privacy settings are locked and unchangeable when a group is created. You’ll soon be able to change this at will. We’ve also redesigned the privacy settings to be a lot easier to use and understand.

Lastly, we’re enhancing or fixing a slew of issues and flows within the Groups feature, including:

  • Adding “Alphabetical” as a way to sort groups on the list of groups on a Ning Network
  • Limiting group deletion privileges only to group moderators, network admins and Network Creators
  • New members of groups will no longer, by default, get notified when other people join their group
  • Better warning message for members viewing invite-only groups
  • Better warning message for members who’ve been suspended from a group

Keep reading for a full breakdown of what’s coming for Pages in groups and privacy settings.

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Coming: Sign up with Twitter

Another popular sign-up option will soon be available on your Ning Network. Along with signing up via Facebook, Google or Yahoo, Network Creators will be able to allow members to sign up and sign in with Twitter, starting later today.

The addition of Twitter sign up has been a long-time Network Creator request, and it represents the next-most popular third-party sign-up service after Yahoo. According to Janrain, the leading provider of Social Sign On services on the web and Ning’s partner for this feature, 86 percent of users prefer to use their Facebook, Google, Yahoo or Twitter accounts when signing up via external authentication.

How to set it up
Just as with the other Social Sign On services, Twitter sign up will need to be enabled first by Network Creators before it appears as an option on your sign up page. If you’ve already created a Twitter app for sharing on your Ning Network, it’s as simple as checking a box on the Sign up/Sign In management page. For those that haven’t taken that step, you’ll need to create a Twitter app for your Ning Network, by following the instructions we’ve added to our Help Center.

If you don’t already have an app for sharing, creating a Twitter app for sign up will allow the app to be used for Twitter sharing as well.

Using Twitter Sign-Up
Unlike Facebook, Google and Yahoo, Twitter does not share users’ email addresses when they sign up with Twitter on any website. Not only was this the reason we had to wait until the Custom Network ID project was complete to add support for Twitter, but visitors who sign up with Twitter will be asked for their email address when signing up. They will not need to create a password, though, and signing in with Twitter will be just as easy as with Facebook, Google or Twitter — all it takes is a single click!

We hope to add more services in the future. For the moment, enjoy using Twitter for sign up.

Now live: Delete unwanted members

Starting today, administrators will have another great tool to add to their community management belt: Deleting a member.

For years, administrators and Network Creators have been able to suspend unwanted members. This allowed them to prevent these people from accessing the network (unless the suspension was lifted) and, more recently, to even keep their content around after suspending a member.

There are many cases, though, where administrators may want to remove a member but not permanently suspend them. Or, they may not want to keep a record of the account in the member management area. A member may have joined with a duplicate email address or perhaps a Network Creator just wants to clear out inactive accounts. Network Creators have made it clear they want the additional option of just deleting a member, and that’s what you’ll see appear on your Ning Network starting today.

From the Moderation page (and, coming shortly, members’ profile pages as well), administrators will see a new “Delete” option. Deleting a member will remove their account and their content from the Ning Network. Additionally, there will be no record of deleted members; they will not appear in any of the tabs on the Members Moderation page.

Deleting a member is not reversible, so use it with caution. It should add a great new tool to administrators’ arsenal, and we’re excited to deliver this long-standing request.

Coming in Beta: Daily Email Digests

Are some of your members tired of getting too many emails from their Ning Network? Soon, they’ll have a choice.

Starting today, some Ning Networks will get to try out the newest feature on the Ning Platform: Daily Email Digests for their members. This new feature will allow members to receive emails from your Ning Network in a once-a-day digest, instead of all email notifications being sent individually as they are posted as they are today.

This feature has been in a very limited testing phase for the last few months, but it will become available to thousands of Network Creators later today. (If you’ve been in this initial beta round, thank you for all of your considered feedback!)

How Daily Email Digests work

If enabled, most emails that your members receive — Forum discussion notifications, friend requests, Group activity, profile comments — will be put into the Email Digest so your members can skim them at-a-glance. A few very important emails like Broadcast Messages and private messages, as well as minor emails  (like a notification that a video has been processed) will continue to be sent instantly. But the bulk of email notifications will be sent in a convenient digest format.

Daily Email Digests should both make it easier for active members to avoid a deluge of email notifications from an active Ning Network and provide Network Creators with an alternative for members who might seek to turn off all emails completely. If there’s no activity in a given day for a member that day, they will not receive the digest for that day. If there is activity relevant to them on your network, they will. We think this will provide a welcome middle ground for those members who may not visit every day but who want to stay abreast of the ongoing activity.

Space for ads or updates

By Network Creator request, we’ve given both Network Creators and Administrators control over the header space in the daily Email Digests. On the Email Controls management page, you will find a new Text Box where you can add content that will be placed into the top of your daily Email Digests. You’ll be able to add text or basic HTML, which will provide you with a smart way to rotate in and out promotions that you may want your less active members to see.

In the screenshot above, we’ve put this space to use with some advertising. Aside from advertising, Network Creators could use this space for:

  • Messages you don’t want to put into a broadcast
  • Branding imagery or text
  • Calls to action (e.g., to encourage members to send invitations)
  • Top content of the day
  • Contest promotions

This will give you a lot of new options, and I encourage you to use this space as a more targeted way to reach your members. For the moment, adding content in this area is manual. In the future, we hope to make it easy to automatically include specific types of content of your choice from your network without any additional work.

How we’re rolling it out — and rolling out future beta features

An important and exciting detail that will be included in this release is a new Beta Features page that we’ve added to your Dashboard. This will allow eager Network Creators to try out upcoming features that aren’t quite ready for public launch and may need additional work.

On this Beta Features page, you’ll see features that are ready for you to test. This will likely become an extensive list over time based on our desire to both expand our beta testing to more people and provide Network Creators with additional info about upcoming features. To minimize infrastructure impact and gather feedback, the Email Digest feature will initially show up on the Beta Features page for only a few thousand Ning Networks. As we do additional testing over the coming days and weeks, more and more Ning Networks will begin see it on their Beta Features pages. You may also see the option to enable a beta feature on a related administrative page. For example, for the Daily Digests feature you may see a prompt to try it out on the  Email Controls page, where it will ultimately live upon its final release.

It’s an opt-in feature

Even on Ning Networks that have The Daily Digest available, this feature will be off by default. Once a Network Creator or Administrator has enabled Daily Digests, members will see a new option on their individual Email Settings page where they can switch between instant and daily emails. Email Digests will be available to Ning Plus and Ning Pro Networks, and we anticipate they will be a welcome addition for Network Creators who have asked for more options about how to message their members.

We hope to continue to improve this new Daily Digest feature based on your feedback, so let us know what you think on the Creators Network!

Goodbye Ning ID, hello Custom Network ID

For some time now, we’ve been talking about the progress of our project to replace the existing cross-Ning ID system — used to sign up and sign in across all Ning Networks — with Custom Network IDs. We’re happy to announce that we’re planning on releasing the final piece of this project tomorrow!

The new Custom Network IDs will mean much more control over your brand and your Ning Network’s sign up experience. This also resolves the sign up issues some new members have been experiencing. And, as a bonus, it will allow us to add a slew of new features that we previously could not — like giving Ning Creators the ability to delete members and letting new members sign up via Twitter.

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Introducing: an upgrade to our text editor

We’ve rolled out an upgrade to one of the heaviest used features on Ning: the text editor. It’s used for all sorts of activity ranging from writing a Blog post to sending a private message, to editing member Profile pages. Previously, each of those tasks would involve using a different text editor for each different type of page. Now, Ning Creators and members will have a clean, consistent user experience when adding content. We’ve been beta testing the new text editor on dozens of Ning Networks, and feedback from our Ning Creators has greatly influenced how this new text editor works.

New Ning text editor

You’ll find the new text editor in just about every place on your Ning Network that requires typing. By default, members will be in WYSIWYG mode — but wherever you see a toolbar, you’ll have the option to switch back to HTML mode if you prefer. Aside from a consistency and a clean design, the new text editor is loaded with useful functionalities:

  • The ability to drag and expand boundaries of the text editor so that you’ll never run out of space when you write, minimizing the need for scrolling
  • Embedding rich media content is now easier. The video embeds pasted in WYISWYG mode will be automatically visible, without the need to switch to HTML mode. There’s also a new “Embed” button that allows members to paste and see embed codes without leaving WYSIWYG mode.
  • Links added into the text editor will, by default, open in a new window if they link off your Ning Network, and open in the same window if they link within your Ning Network. Not happy with the default? Just click on a link after you add it, hit “Edit” and change the setting.
  • Text pasted from a Word document is better handled. And now you have the option to paste in plain text so that only basic formatting is retained to ensure your text appears cleanly when it’s posted.

We’ve also added new functionalities specifically for members on any Ning Network:

  • More control on alignment, padding, and size when adding image. Members can also choose from linking the image to the URL of the image file, a webpage, or another image.
  • Even more room to share their thoughts: Just hit the “Full Screen” button to use the entire browser window.
  • Ability to customize the link and text when adding hyperlinks

If you’re a Ning Creator and want to join the discussion with the Ning Team and other Ning Creators or learn more about this feature, join us on the Creators Netowrk. Let us know your thoughts and suggestions about this new feature.

Introducing Social Sign-In

Here at Ning, we pay close attention to customer feedback. Ning Creators consistently remind us how important it is to have complete freedom to customize their online community experience. An important request around this idea has been for a more streamlined member registration and sign-in process. After all, who has the time to create and remember yet another username and password?

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve had our heads down, rolling out new ways for Ning Creators to integrate and unlock the value of their communities. Today, we’re taking another big step in this direction. With the launch of Social Sign-In, Ning Plus and Pro Network Creators now have the ability to enable sign up and sign in via Facebook, Google, or Yahoo!

How it works

First-time visitors no longer need to provide an email address and choose a password to sign up for a Ning Network. Instead, they can simply use an existing Facebook, Google, or Yahoo! account — and complete the registration flow in a couple of clicks. Their name and email address will be automatically populated in the sign-up form. Better yet, if they sign up with their Facebook account, their birthdate, gender, and profile photo will also be automatically filled out during the sign-up process.

Returning members will find that signing in to a Ning Network has now become incredibly simple. All it takes now is one click. Gone are the days when members would need to type in their username and password. On the Sign-Up / Sign-In box, members can also see which accounts are supported. If a signed-out member clicks on the icon of the service they initially chose to join with, they’ll be signed in right away — no extra steps or clicks needed.

This Social Sign-In feature is powered by Janrain, the leading user management platform for the social Web.

This implementation of Social Sign-In lays the foundation for supporting additional methods of third-party authentication. Facebook, Google, and Yahoo! are the initial set of available services, and we will be adding more options in the future.