Welcome to the rabbit's hole. A blog on pulp.
Ning is very 2.0. If somebody would have tried to build a chimera of the good ol’ forum, a normal weblog, a social network à la MySpace and a sharing network between Youtube and Flickr. Well. He would have gotten Ning. Plus Twitter.
Andreessen planned to do something like this and this, let’s call it chimera anyway, is interesting. As all big and ugly animals with hairs and teeth and a bad breath happen to do. I’ll never grow old.
However, it happens to be a nice one. It promises that you can use it as a simple multi-user blog provided that every user has a ning account. As I set up an account I chose to be surprised that there is no data requested besides a user name (that cannot be your networks title) and an e-mail address (where no e-mail is sent to). Ok.
Adding network name, setting an URL, commenting the network’s idea. Setting up a network is quite easy as it seems. Interestingly you automatically can set up multiple networks. The templates are easy to edit in colors, although the layout is quite static. One info-bar at the left, a centered content page and a set of category tabs on the top. It is possible to edit the templates via stylesheets, too, as second glance reveals – also a restructuring of your page’s layout.
Including videos which you can also import from YouTube and GoogleVideo is no problem. Pictures can also be imported from Flickr including tags and descriptions. Everything seems very easy. The organizing tool for the photo sets feels like Flickr’s Organizr and I wonder if this won’t add to a list of other features which might lead to some copyright problems. A nice gadget is the feature of adding a watermark to the uploaded videos and the customization tool for video and photo slide-shows allowing to switch color and create a smoother appearance.
Including RSS-feeds is also a nice one. Although excluding Atom is a thing which nevertheless might bother some. As well as the fact that you can only chose between listing a complete entry or just the headline – no summaries.
Blogging of course is also possible and you even have a usable archive function – a nice difference to MySpace. Apropos: You can of course add friends and view their entries and uploaded media. The only problem is – Ning has more than just one network. And as the founders of Ning state: “Networks on Ning are relatively stand-alone.” You have now overview over the networks you participate inside Ning and – even worse – in each network you have a different profile. All data has to be entered a second time.
OK. If I decide to found a network on Ning I might not think of the idea, that I could take part in other networks, too. But you need a Ning account to participate in a Ning network. And soon there will be the problem, that I have more than one network but now ‘main page’ or ‘dashboard’ or whatever to get an overview. But ain’t this essential? What kinda sense makes an ultimate every-thing-account, if it doesn’t enable a merge of all information (photos, feeds, videos etc.) at one central point. Oh, what? Yes: None.
Another thing I really miss is a bookmark tool like Delicious. Or a friend roll, blogroll, however you call it. Nevertheless, nothing to share bookmarks which you never read again. Or so. Not that Ning did not already swiped everything of the existing web 2.0 stuff, but – it’s like a puzzle. It misses to complete the idea.
What does not miss is Twitter. Or at least a on-page-chatting function that strikingly resembles to Twitter. I don’t know if you need something like this. As
Spießer Alfons Olaf Kolbrueck said: Twitter is SMS plus ecstasy. And leave MySpace to the kiddos.
Some extra feature are the questions new members have to answer before they participate in your network and which you can edit completely even choosing between multiple choice, single and multiple line answers. Kool. I always wanted to know what my friends do at six o’clock in the morning…. mh.
And of course someone has to make money with this stuff – so you gotta pay for some features. Extra-privacy costs extra, as well as for deleting the Ning-bar (matching the Blogger-bar) or extra storage. You also have to pay for extra band-with but Ning has no entry in its FAQ how high provided the standard storage and band-with is. I guess you must wait till you site is down.
All in all. It’s a nice guy, this chimera. Good to create your own Network or a part-time-community, maybe even a weblog for multiple users – but nothing you need as a normal user. Many hairs, not so many teeth, needs a long line. It just wants to play.
The testing network I created is still online for a week or so. So test it, if you like.