Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ning Changes and the Impact on Educational Communities

The news today of changes to Ning, based on a purported (but I think likely authentic) internal memo from the new Ning CEO, is reasonably going to cause some concern in the education community.  Ning has facilitated a pretty historic change in the connecting of educators, often in self-directed ways, through the ability to "create your own social network."

If there are changes coming to Ning, then as a community we'll want to work together to respond and to help each other.  Some initial thoughts are below.  I'm also going to open up a live Elluminate session on Tuesday, April 20th, at 5pm Pacific Daylight Time (US) / 8pm Eastern Daylight Time (US) / 12am Wednesday GMT (international conversions here).  Let's gather information and then use that time to talk about what is currently known and what the potential courses of action are for existing network creators.  We'll use the Elluminate room:  log in at I'll open up the room 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early, and we'll run as long as is needed. To make sure that your computer is configured for Elluminate, please visit

Some initial thoughts:

  • If you have an exiting Ning network, while you can only export the networks membership, I'd suggest doing that now just to be safe.  (In your network go to Manage > Members and then look for the link at the bottom of the page to export.)  I don't think it's appropriate to import those members into any other system without their express consent, but you will want to have their email addresses in a worst-case scenario.
  • I'd urge some thoughtfulness at this stage.  It's not clear what Ning's long-term intentions are for educational networks, and once your user data is backed up, speculating before Ning makes any official decisions or announcements is not likely to provide you with a practical outcome right now.  
  • We know at Elluminate that our network's user interface does not yet match the Ning experience, but hopefully, for some of you, LearnCentral becomes an attractive alternative to Ning.  Our model is different than Ning's:  we're creating a single education-wide network with stronger group capabilities, and we're doing so for free because it's a great introduction to the already existing paid services that Elluminate offers.  There will be some scrutiny of commercial models right now given this turn of events, and hopefully we end up looking pretty good in this regard.
  • The Ning networks that I run are all ones where I pay for premium services.  While it's not clear from the above-mentioned Ning memo what or how many premium services will be required to continue your Ning network, I don't have any concerns about my existing networks at this point.  You can see a list of them some way down the left side of this blog page.  Some of them are generously sustained by organizations who support the financial costs, and I can explain how I approached and then have worked with those organizations in our Elluminate session if that's a route you want to go.  
  • I'm also glad, time permitting, to work with individual networks whose continued existence is important to our larger community, as was the case with the Library 2.0 network Bill Drew had grown for some years but which he was going to shut down and we were able to find sponsorship for (hurrah, Brentwood School librarians!).  Feel free to contact me directly at in this regard if and when it becomes clear what Ning's new policies will be.
This does seem like a dramatic turn of events, but something really powerful has happened in the education world, for which Ning has been a great springboard.  Educational networking, however, is now more powerful than one company's services alone.  The road may not be completely smooth, but we will figure this out together. :)


  1. In the meantime, a Google doc was made and shared with suggestions of Ning anternatives:

  2. Such a great time to really consider just how powerful, and important, social networking has become, not just for education, but as a part of our daily lives.

    There are probably a few out in the educational community that have been waiting for something like this to happen; one of the large social networks to start concentrating on profits instead of just "really cool things".

    On the downside, this will prevent a lot of opportunities for educators and individuals with really great ideas, but low technical skills, from creating new learning opportunities. However, there is a silver lining here. This may push more educators will start considering open-source solutions like Elgg or Wordpress/Buddy Press. It may even cause some to consider picking up a few coding skills. Using an open source language like Ruby on Rails allows even novice level coders that ability to craft their own social networks, and build them from scratch from the ground up.

  3. Anonymous7:40 PM

    This was posted on ning creators
    reply by John McDonald 25 minutes ago

    Thank you for all of your kind words for the Ning employees that were let go as part of this change. I also appreciate all of your comments, opinions and questions about the announcement. We will share detailed plans within 2 weeks.

    I want to address one particular concern several of you have voiced about the impact of this change to educators using Ning Networks. We remain committed to this important group of Network Creators, and we understand your unique needs. We plan to address your concerns in our upcoming plan.

    And please be considerate and respectful of other Network Creators as you continue to participate in this discussion!


  4. I'm collecting ideas, stories, and thoughts in a survey:

    Results can be found here:

    Please contribute!

    Lucy Gray

  5. Steve,

    I would caution any community moving to another provider that doesn't expressively and publicly state in its terms of service that it won't turn into a "pay as you go " model in the future.

    That's the problem. Developers offering the moon and then slowly wiping away the horizon and then as in Ning's decision, even the earth itself. Will LearnCentral guarantee new networks/groups that they will never be asked to pay nor will withdraw given services after a community is set up/started? If so, I'll be the first to promote LearnCentral.

    I urge all educational communities to make sure that their communities, with so much effort and knowledge given - are protected, before setting up house.


  6. thank you Lucy.. holler if I can help in any way.

  7. Steve
    Thanks for your thoughtfulness and leadership on the issue.

  8. thanks for the thoughtful post as well as the offer to help us navigate the change(s) in ning. i do so appreciate it.

  9. Here's a statement from Ning's CEO the next day:

    "On May 4, 2010, we will share with you all of the details of our new offering, including features and price points, through a series of blog posts, emails, and conference calls. We recognize that there are many active Ning Networks for teachers, small non-profits, and individuals and its our goal to have a set of product and pricing options that will make sense for all of them. For Ning Creators using our free service who choose to move to another service, we will offer a migration path and time to make that change. We will still continue to allow free trials and test networks on the Ning Platform."


I hate having to moderate comments, but have to do so because of spam... :(