Saturday, May 8, 2010

Recent NING Issues...

For those of you that participate in NINGS in relation to work I’ve done with your district or group, you may have heard recently that are some changes happening within the NING company.

It boils down to the fact that all NING sites will now go to a paid model over the summer. There is some talk about an as-yet-unnamed company that may sponsor educator sites, but that is not yet known or set in stone. We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, I’ve found some NING alternatives in case I have to move off of the NING platform. I thought it would be a good idea to share this for those of you who may wish to set up your own collaborative spaces. I’ve used some of these sites before but am also still investigating others of them.

The things that I like about NING, as far as collaboration, sharing photos/videos, interactive conversations, internal blogging and forums--all of those can be done through other services. I’m also considering a collaborative component to the launch of my new website this summer where I can host these features for specific groups but under an umbrella that I have more control over.

Please know that if you currently participate in a NING that I’ve created, nothing, for now, is changing. Please continue to use it in the manner and spirit that you always have, and know that when a change DOES happen, I will personally email every person inside the NINGS I created and let them know of what our plan will be!

In the meantime, here are some of the services that I’m investigating as possible replacements or components of non-Ning collaborative spaces:

WIX - - I’m really liking the way WIX works. I can build whole websites or just components to embed in seconds. They are flash based, so that is a little bit of a concern for iPod/iPad users, but they are REALLY cool!

GROU.PS - - This looks to work a lot like NING, but I’m not sure yet about all of the different user controls and options. This is one I’m still investigating.

ELGG - - I’ve known about ELGG for some time, and I like the way it looks and works. Right now, this is looking like the most viable alternative.

WIKISPACES - - Anybody that knows me knows that I love me some Wikispaces! They are generous to educators and have LOADS of features. I create wikis for almost everything I do at this point and I think I’m proficient enough to create a more deeply collaborative space within them, using embeddable applications and a little critical thinking! I’m going to try to create the space I want within Wikispaces and see how it all works.

BUDDY PRESS - - Buddy Press is a plugin for Wordpress sites. The more I investigate it, the more I wonder how much of this I can do within Blogger. (Since I’m already hosting a blog there.) I’m not sure I’ll use this one, but I think it will be informative about how I use/interact with the other services.

SOCIALGO - - Social Go is a NING link collaborative space that I’m still investigating. Like some of the other sites, I may use it as is, or I may use it to inform what other spaces I’m creating will look like.

Also, on a final note: The issues with NING underscore a couple of things that must be kept in mind about what “FREE” means on the Internet. For one, companies that create and provide free services aren’t obligated to continue to do so and can, at any time, like NING, decide to go to a paid model. While it’s been a little upsetting, I learned a lot by using their service and feel pretty good about being able to move on to the next best thing, or make a decision about how I will use their service in a paid capacity. Additionally, in relation to the economy that we live in, these web companies are just as susceptible to economic problems as the rest of us. It’s nice to be able to depend on them, but the reality is that one day, our content might not be there. It’s a good idea to have a back up/contingency plan, and have your valuable content saved in more than one place!

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