No more Ning

April 15, 2010

No more Ning

Well that’s not factually correct, what the title should be is “No more free Ning”.

It would appear that Ning are phasing out the free service to allow them to focus on those customers who pay for the premium service.

So, we are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity.  We will phase out our free service.  Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning.  We will judge ourselves by our ability to enable and power Premium Ning Networks at huge scale.  And all of our product development capability will be devoted to making paying Network Creators extremely happy.

A mistake I think on Ning’s part.

Now I am not opposed to paying for premium services, if I like a free service and the Pro or premium version offers more and I perceive it as value for money I will pay.

On this blog for example I pay for the VideoPress and extra storage. I have a Flickr Pro account. I pay for the premium version of Remember the Milk. If I reached the limits I would probably pay for the premium version of Evernote.

If there are limitations on the free account or added features on the premium account then I will happily pay out money. It would appear that many others do the same.

However in all the examples I have given, as well as the paid Pro version there is also a free version. People will try out free services, if they like them and want the added functionality they will upgrade.

As Ning have decided to phase out the free version, I think this is where they are making a mistake. With no free version, you will find that key individuals won’t try the service and upgrade later… Well maybe Ning is already well known enough that this won’t be an issue. Hmmm I am not so sure. Anyone remember Gabcast? Originally a free service, went paid for only and now having checked recently it is hardly used compared to services such as Audioboo or iPadio.

Without a free version that can be upgraded I wonder if people will start using Ning or even continue using Ning if other services offer more for the same sort of cost.

So now I need to think about what to do about the Ning sites I have created. If there is a demand (and I can get funding) I may upgrade to the premium version, but I know this won’t be the case for all of the sites I have.

So what alternatives are there?

One that is been talked about on Twitter is Elgg.

Elgg is open source social networking software that provides individuals and organizations with the components needed to create an online social environment. It offers blogging, microblogging, file creation and sharing, networking, groups, news collection using feeds aggregation and a number of other features.


Though of course though the software is free (open source) you will need a hosting service and the sort required for Elgg isn’t going to be free. If you are lucky your institution may have the capacity to host an Elgg service for you.

I have mentioned Crowdvine before on the blog, it was one of my top ten tools in 2008. I have used it at conferences like JISC and ALT-C.

As well as their premium services Crowdvine also have a free version.

CrowdVine builds simple and powerful social networks for events and groups to help people connect and meet. Use us for your conference, event, or organization.

Interesting though that JISC moved from Crowdvine to Ning for JISC 2010. Wonder what JISC will use for JISC 2011?

Another one that I have found, but not used is SocialGO.

SocialGO allows you to build a custom social network, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned developer.  No software, hosting or coding required, as our team offers full support for your social networking site.

As with Crowdvine there are cost plans and a free plan.

So Ning is no more, well the free Ning is no more.

Does it really matter that much?

I have  talked before about inappropriate advertising on services and why sometimes a paid for service may be better.

One of the issues with using any free Web 2.0 service is that they may not be here forever. Gabcast is no longer free, but Audioboo is. Jaiku is pretty much dead, but Twitter is alive and well. Etherpad has gone, but iEtherpad is up and running.

At the end of the day this is not about a service disappearing or now charging, it’s much more about how when using these services you don’t think about long term, but have the capability and the technical knowledge to move between different services as and when they become available.

Use what is now and in the future use what is then.

Just remember teachers are like starship captains…

April 15, 2010

Providing any e-learning service to staff in an institution is a challenge.

Providing a service that meets the varied needs of staff in an institution is also a challenge.

Providing a service that exceeds the expectations of staff in an institution is sometimes an impossible challenge…

…unless you manage the (sometimes) unrealistic expectations of staff.

I remember many years ago in my previous role at the Western Colleges Consortium (WCC) explaining to key stakeholders about how long it would take to process a course creation request on the shared VLE. The process was in place to remove the burden of the task from staff in the partner colleges, ensure that it was only visible to the relevant staff and learners and had some content in it! Once created it was handed over to the staff to add activities and more content.

I recall announcing that we would ensure that all requests would be   fulfilled within seven days.

But the cry came out…

“This is the internet, it’s available 24/7, why can’t you just do it there and then!”

The issue was not about doing it there and then, but managing expectations. We needed to be realistic based on the staff available to complete the requests, holiday, conferences, and levels of requests.

Usually we would complete requests the same working day, however if we said we would do a request within one day and we fulfilled that request in two days, we would have been seen to have “failed”.

By setting a service agreement of seven days, say we completed the request within three days we would be seen as a miracle worker!

It was all about managing expectations.

If your users expect you to complete something in seven days and you take less than seven days then you have exceeded their expectations. Likewise if you say within 24 hours and it takes 25 hours, you have failed in their eyes and not met their expectations.

Realistic service level agreements need to be in place to ensure that you meet and exceed expectations from users. The agreements you have in place should be based on staffing and other resources.

You can of course review and evaluate the agreements over time to ensure that they continue to be realistic, fair and working.

So don’t say within 24 hours and seen to be continually failing, set a level of five days and be seen as a miracle worker!

Why is this The Scotty Model of e-Learning Services, well….

Have a look at this video…

It should start at the correct timeframe of 2 mins into it.

Just remember teachers are like starship captains…