Ning.com is a platform site that lets you build interactive networks quickly and easily. If you’ve already completed the Facebook Things or if you’ve ever used MySpace, Ning’s functionality will seem very familiar.
All the hallmarks of interactive online activity (aka Web 2.0) are here: once you’ve joined a Ning.com network, you can post pictures & videos, have discussions on the network’s forum page, write to the network’s blog, post events, and even form your own interest groups within the network. From your personal page, you can add friends and keep folks informed of your whereabouts and activities via a short status message.
One nice thing about Ning.com is that you can explore Ning networks without creating your own network page, or without even creating a Ning account.
Because there has been some controversy surrounding the way Ning.com uses the data submitted by members its hosted networks (see this ChartingStocks blog post for more information), this Thing won’t require you to create a Ning account. If you want to, there will be an optional section for doing so at the end of this Thing.
Go to the main page at Ning.com, and you will see a search box at the bottom of the page. Enter keywords for activities of interest to you. If you enter the search term “library,” for example, you’ll see the ALA network about halfway down the results page. Some networks require you to sign in to view content. ALA’s doesn’t. Ideally, on whatever network you choose, you’ll at least be able to view a list of members, see photos and videos, and read forum and blog posts.
For a quick (6:49) tutorial on using Ning.com, check out this video. When I viewed it, the audio was somewhat problematic but it was a solid overview and most of the audio was intelligible.
Flip through a few Ning.com networks and record your thoughts and observations in your blog. You don’t have to limit yourself to library-related sites. In fact, this Thing will be a lot more interesting if you go find some off-the-wall content and post your thoughts on it to your blog. A good example of the kind of off-the-beaten-path content you can find Ning.com is the "open source ILS song" on the ALA network video page.
Here is where the optional activities begin. To get more fully immersed in Ning.com, your first task is to sign up for a Ning account.
Once you have your Ning account, you will be able to search for networks to join in the same way you would search as a non-member.
Networks are searchable if the owner has made them public. Some networks are joinable by invitation only. Some groups require a moderator’s approval of your membership, and some require you to answer survey-type questions (ALA asks, among other things, how many ALA conferences you’ve attended) before submitting a membership request. For the purposes of this Thing, you will search for networks to join. ALA is a good place to start.
Once you’ve found some likely candidates, choose at least one network to join. Participate in the online forums and post your thoughts and observations on your blog.