Ning, do-it-yourself social network

April 10th, 2007 at 12:00 am
 


Over the weekend I make my own social network on Ning. Yes I've heard of the site before but I did not have the interest to use it because I had no idea what to do with it then. Anyway, I guess now it's ok to share it here on TechJournal.

Social networks have been the backbone of Web2.0 allowing virtually anybody to connect, express and communicate with friends and strangers with unprecedented ease. Today social networks usually have the exact same form and functionality varying only in the details. However, the subjects of social networks cannot cope up or are too vague for everybody. So why not let everybody author any social network they desire? That's exactly what Ning allows its users to do, create their own social network / community about whatever pleases them. It could be highly specific or as vague as the ocean.

When ning was first launched and I began reading the reviews, I was discouraged because of the seemingly tedious scope of work that needed to be done just to launch my own social network. Last weekend it was all too easy. I feared that since Ning would let the user administrate all aspects of the social network, it would require a mile long list of things to do including debugging. Instead, the Ning uses Ajax and a really smart UI to allow even the dumbest scum of the earth make his own social network.

To begin, of course you'll need a Ning account. This part is similar to a WordPress account allowing you to reate as many social networks or communities on Ning. Then you get to choose a name for your network and the URL.ning.com. After that it's all smooth sailing, you could click 'next' all the way and end up with a working social network. but of course that would defeat the purpose of creating your own for yourself. The key here is customization and with Ning you can easily layout your main page with Ajax by just drag and drop. Profile questions can be customized also using Ajax. Pictures can be used to replace some parts of the page template including the background image and header so if you have a logo for your social network then it's as easy as uploading a photo.

The contents of the main page is up to you, with the layout in place, photos videos and HTMLs can easily be put in the boxes. If you want to change it, as owner of the social network, all the modules on the page have an edit button.

After the social network is launched, invitations can be sent via email. Your members must however sign up for a Ning account before becoming a member in your social network. Members can then upload their photos, make their own page in your network, invite other people and participate in your forum (a standard feature provided in your Ning social network).

Although it has been fun (I actually enjoyed making mine) creating a ocial network, there were also a few bumps on the road. It was kind of slow actually. I'm not sure if it was my connection but the refresh rate of Ning took a while sometimes. Another problem I saw was the limited modules. Though in 'advanced' mode you could manipulate the code, the feature modules cannot be replicated easily without coding experience.

Lastly, if you don't want the 'ning' on your URL, you could buy the social network you made from them for about $20 and they'll give you the code for you to host where ever you may please. And by the way, you could join my social network here.