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.

Wikipedia

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.

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e-Learning Stuff Podcast #018: Digital Literates

March 22, 2009

James Clay, Kev Hickey, Shri Footring and Lisa Valentine discuss Twitter, digital literacy, digital identity and other stuff too.

This is the eighteenth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Digital Literates.

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Digital Literates

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

James is joined by Kev Hickey and Shri Footring. Lisa Valentine joins us later in the conversation.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #018: Digital Literates

Shownotes

  • Digital Literacy Debate – The purpose of the debate is to try and move forward on issues surrounding Digital Literacy. The focus of the debate will be the UK education sector, but international attendees and contributors are more than welcome. Recently, Digital Literacy has gained a lot of traction within academic and educational technology discussion within the UK, and is generally thought of as A Good Thing. However, some important questions have yet to be addressed.
  • James, Shri, Kev and Lisa all use Twitter, but some of us prefer Jaiku.
  • So what is a hashtag?
  • Pat Parslow’s comment on the term digital native.
  • Marc Prensky’s new paper on digital wisdom.
  • Dave White’s blog a post about residents or visitors to the online world.
  • The e-Learning Stuff podcast on the whole digital native, immigrant, visitor, resident, naturalised debate.

Photo source.


e-Learning Stuff Podcast #015: Social networking rots your brains

March 1, 2009

James, Lilian, Lisa and Ron discuss the recent publicity over Susan Greenfield’s comments in the Daily Mail on the “dangers” of social networking and young people’s brains. Does using social networking sites lead to loneliness and isolation? Do users of Facebook and Twitter feel excluded from society. In this podcast we discuss the furore and the issues.

This is the fifteenth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Social networking rots your brains.

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Social networking rots your brains

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

James is joined by Lilian Soon, Lisa Valentine and Ron Mitchell.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #015: Social networking rots your brains

Shownotes

Finally the photo above of zombies meeting in the real world was organised on Facebook. So you could argue that Facebook has turned them into zombies, however I don’t think these kinds of social gatherings was what Susan Greenfield meant.


I am having a coffee…

February 28, 2009

Yesterday I gave a few online presentations (conferences) for the MoLeNET programme.

One was on microblogging, entitled I am having a coffee…

The presentation covered blogging, RSS, Twitter, Jaiku, Moblog and even Flickr.


Social networking rots your brain

February 25, 2009

One of the reasons I am not a great fan of Facebook was the pelthora of zombies being thrown around. It would seem that according to a briefing from Susan Greenfield to the House of Lords that using social networking sites such as Facebook rots your brain. Does that that she thinks if you use Facebook you become a zombie?

Social networking rots your brain

Well what she said was and this quote was taken from the BBC News site:

Real-life conversations “require a sensitivity to voice tone, body language and perhaps even to pheromones – those sneaky molecules that we release and which others smell subconsciously.

“Moreover, according to the context and, indeed, the person with whom we are conversing, our own delivery will need to adapt. None of these skills are required when chatting on a social networking site,” she said.

“It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result in brains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations.”

The story then ran in the Daily Mail and Susan was was interviewed and said

“We know how small babies need constant reassurance that they exist … My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.”

Okay, let’s take a step back.

Any one who does one thing for a long amount of time is going to have potential health problems. However that one thing doesn’t have to be social networking, it could be television, sports, dancing, piano playing, even reading books.

The thing is that for some social networking is a way of expanding their social non-online life, a way of enhancing and enriching their outside life.

If you spend your entire life on Facebook then yes, in my opinion you have a problem. However everyone I know on Facebook has a life outside Facebook, and Facebook has enhanced their social life and improved (and increased) interation in the real world.

Personally I have found that using this blog, using Twitter and Jaiku, has made my working life easier and better.

The web and social networking has enabled me to make new and better friendships in the real world. Now when I go to conferences I know people and they know me, we can focus on the conference and the content of the conference without having to go through the process of building relationships (as we have done that already online).

This was readily apparent at the recent LSIS eCPD event, where lots of people came to chat to me who I knew via my blog, mailing lists, Twitter, Jaiku and even Facebook. Without social networking those conversations probably wouldn’t have taken place.

It would seem I am not alone in thinking that what Susan is saying is bunk.

Dr Ben Goldacre who was on Newsnight on Tuesday night has published his reaction to the article on the Bad Science blog.

It is my view that Professor Greenfield has been abusing her position as a professor, and head of the Royal Institution, for many years now, using these roles to give weight to her speculations and prejudices in a way that is entirely inappropriate.

he goes on…

We are all free to have fanciful ideas. Professor Greenfield’s stated aim, however, is to improve the public’s understanding of science: and yet repeatedly she appears in the media making wild headline-grabbing claims, without evidence, all the while telling us repeatedly that she is a scientist. By doing this, the head of the RI grossly misrepresents what it is that scientists do, and indeed the whole notion of what it means to have empirical evidence for a claim.

Another good blog post on this is from Sue Thomas, she says:

The danger of scientists untempered by Humanities knowledge of history, anthropology, sociology and culture is once again rearing its head. Baroness, it’s not enough to measure brain activity, we must understand it in the wider context of human culture. Please, get some experts with a wider range of viewpoints on your team, including some who really know about education and social networking. You are in urgent need of a transliterate perspective. Without it you are a danger to society.

So what do I think apart from agreeing with Sue and Ben that Susan’s theories are a little bit cracked and bunk?

The main problem is that parents (and some learners) will only read the headlines, the scary articles in the newspapers. They won’t watch Newsnight, they won’t read the blog articles hitting back. No they will remember the headlines and certainly won’t check the science.

As a result educational institutions which want to enhance and enrich face to face learning experiences with Web 2.0 and social web tools may find they receive complaints and anger from concerned parents and students.

Finally the photo above of zombies meeting in the real world was organised on Facebook. So you could argue that Facebook has turned them into zombies, however I don’t think these kinds of social gatherings was what Susan Greenfield meant.


It’s mobile and it’s glossy

February 5, 2009

The 5th February sees the launch of the LSIS eCPD event in London. Not sure how many people will turn up due to the snow. I am thought about not going, though it was aright when I left, it has got heavier back home and even now it looks quite thick out of the train window as I write this.

I am running a workshop at the event which is looking at mobile learning. Unlike the MoD event, this time I have forty-five minutes which is longer, but is still not really enough time!

In the session I hope to get the delegates to discuss and talk about how mobile technologies can be used to support, enhance and enrich the learning experience of learners. I am also hoping (as I have done at previous workshops) the delegates use the same mobile technologies to post their reflections and views online.

The workshop blog can be found here.

The podcast channel (we’re using Gabcast) can be found here.

Some people will be posting to Jaiku and Twitter and I am also hoping to send images to Flickr, as well as video to Seesmic. There may even be some Qik video as well.

Even if you are not at the event, I hope you can still join in with the workshop by contributing to the stuff posted online adding comments, or joining in with the Twitter and Jaiku discussions.

The first session (as is the rest of the day) is being broadcast online using Elluminate and you can find out how to access the online stuff on the ALT website.

If people turn up it should be fun.


Top Ten Web Tools of 2008

December 18, 2008

This is a list of web tools which I have used extensively over the last twelve months. The reason for the list was partly down to the lists Steve Wheeler has been posting on his blog, and a prompt from him on Twitter. This is not an exact copy of Steve’s format I have also been working on a list of devices as well, which hopefully will be a second post later. I do quite like this format which gives an opportunity to review and share the tools which have made a difference to the way I work and have enhanced what I do.

Here are my top ten web tools in reverse order.

10.    Google Docs

I had kind of forgotten how useful Google Docs is for working on documents (as well as presentations and spreadsheets) and have now started to use it much more than before. The downside is that you need to be connected (though I believe Google Gears will allow offline working). The main way I use Google Docs is to write a document that I know I will be working from on multiple computers. Now I know I could use a USB stick, but it assumes I have the same application on all machines, which is not always the case. For example my work machines have Office 2003, fine, but my Mac has Office 2008 (the newer version), my home Mac only has Pages, my Samsung Q1 only has Open Office as does the Asus EeePC. Sometimes the PC is runing Office 2007. Using Google Docs allows me to have a single copy of a document, share that document and export or print in variety of formats. For example I can download my document as a PDF. In planning for the e-Learning Stuff podcasts we have been using a Google Spreadsheet to plan topics and times. For collaboration and working together, nothing really beats Google Docs, in many ways I think it is better than Sharepoint based on what I have seen on Sharepoint.

9.    Crowdvine

For me a conference is much more than the sum of its parts. It is much more than the keynotes, the presentations and the workshops. It’s the discussion, the coffee breaks, the small group working, the conference dinner and following up afterwards. What I like about Crowdvine is that it allows you to supplement a conference in a similar way to the coffee but doing it online. Though I used Crowdfine at the JISC Conference 2008, it really came of age at the ALT Conference in Leeds.

8    Remember the Milk

If you are like me you have a lot of different tracks happening all at once, college events, projects, conference submissions, workshops to prepare for, training; then keeping on top of all the things you need to do and deadline can be challenging. I had tried Outlook Tasks but the webmail version didn’t work as I needed to, so I tried Remember the Milk. As well as the web based interface (which means I can use any computer) I can also use it on my iPod touch as it is also available as an iPhone app (if you have the pro account). Very easy to add tasks and deadlines and as a result overviews are easy to see. Main result has been, I am meeting more of my deadlines.

7.    Evernote

You could ask what does Evernote have that Google Docs doesn’t? There are some features of Evernote that I really like which for note taking beats Google Docs. It has Tablet PC support and I really like the Tablet PC format and the ability to scribble notes. It also has an iPhone app which means I can make notes on the move. There are apps for both Macs and Windows which along with the web app means it doesn’t matter which computer I am on, I can access, edit and print my notes.

6.    Flickr

This year, having had a Pro account for a year, renewed my subscription for another two years. I have nearly 1500 photographs on Flickr covering a range of topics and events. From an events perspective I think Flickr adds so much more to an event. It can capture the event in ways that can’t be caught in any other way. Flickr is not only a great way of storing photographs, also a great place to find photographs, and many images on this blog are from photos from Flickr which are creative commons licensed to allow me to use them on the blog.

5.    Shozu

This was nearly my number one web tool. What Shozu does for me is when I ever take a photograph using my Nokia N95 I can immediately upload the image to Flickr. With a little preparation I can add relevant tags (or edit tags on the fly) and it will also add the geo-data using the GPS on the N95. What this means is that when I am at an event I can take lots of photographs and people who want to see what is going on can easily see from my photographs. It also allows me to capture my day in a kind of lifestream giving me a record of what I have done, who I have met and where I have been. I also Shozu to upload photographs to Facebook, video to Seesmic, and I have also used it to upload content to my blog.

4.    Wordpress

Though a blog is seen as a one to many form of communication, I do enjoy writing mine and over 50,000 views later, I get the feeling quite a few people enjoy reading it as well. I use a WordPress.com blog for many reasons, the main is convenience. As it is web based all I need is a browser to write a blog entry, though there are other tools such as Shozu and the WordPress app on the iPod touch which also allow me to write. I paid $20 for the space upgrade which as well as letting me upload audio and video files, also does a very good job of converting my films into Flash Video. The quality is certainly much better than YouTube, and I can embed the video on other sites as well. The stats are useful in finding out how people are finding the blog, likewise comments allow feedback.

3.    Qik

“This is James Clay, live on the internet” those were the immortal words uttered by me at the MoLeNET Dissemination Conference and broadcast live over the internet using Qik. At the time of writing nearly five hundred people have viewed that video which when you know only three hundred were at the conference, shows the power and potential of tools such as Qik. Basically Qik is a service which allows you to stream live video from your phone to the internet.

2.    Twitter

Though I joined Twitter nearly two years ago, this year (with lots of other people joining) it has really come of age to me. I use Twitter in various ways, as well as informing my community that I am drinking a coffee, I also let them know about various (what I think are) interesting things I am doing.  I tweet about blog posts I have made. I also use Twitter as a back channel at events and conferences, finding out what is going on and what I find interesting. However telling people is only half the story, maybe even as  little as 20% of the  story. The other key thing about Twitter is about communication, responding to other tweets, having a conversation. Responding to what others have written, or acting on what others have written.

1.    Jaiku

Though I like Twitter, I still much prefer Jaiku for functionality and the conversation. Jaiku is everything that Twitter is but with threaded conversations. Want to respond to a message of mine you can as a comment and all comments for that one message can be found in one place. You can also add RSS feeds to Jaiku which allows for responses to your blog posts, flickr photographs, news feeds, music, whatever RSS feeds you have. Jaiku also has channels which work like hashtags on Twitter, but channels are separate to your main feeds, so a conference backchannel won’t clutter up your Jaiku feed. I also think you need to “do” Jaiku for a fair amount of time (and commitment) to get some real value from it. There is value from incidental chat, what is incidental for me, may be new and innovative for you and vice versa.

So Jaiku is my number one web tool of 2008, what’s yours?

Top Ten Web Tools of 2008